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Third Desert Tortoise Species Identified By Arizona Researcher

Taylor Edwards
(Photo courtesy of Taylor Edwards)
Taylor Edwards has been studying desert tortoises for more than 15 years. S

A new species of desert tortoise has been described by a University of Arizona genetic researcher. Identifying the Goode’s Thornscrub Tortoise will aid in its preservation.

Taylor Edwards has been studying desert tortoises for more than 15 years. Since he first obtained genetic data on this animal, it took 10 years of work to determine it is a separate species from the other two desert tortoise species. Edwards looked at DNA from among his collection of 1,600 samples he and other researchers have collected.

The Goode’s Thornscrub habitat is the tropical deciduous forests of southern Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico.

"It has the smallest range of any of the desert tortoises. And it does live in habitat that’s considered pretty imperiled," said Edwards.

Knowing that this creature is a separate species will help conservation biologists protect the animals.

“What’s important now is starting to monitor and find out actually how many there are out there and what their needs are in order to persist," Edwards said.

The new species is named for Eric Goode, founder of the Turtle Conservancy. Naming rights were auctioned and the money will be used to buy tortoise habitat in Mexico.

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Sara Hammond has an extensive background in journalism as well as corporate communication. A graduate of the University of Arizona’s (UA) School of Journalism, Hammond interned at the Tucson Citizen and, after graduation, spent 10 years reporting for the Portland Press Herald in Maine.