FunNature & AnimalThe Galapagos Islands have almost 10 times more exotic...

The Galapagos Islands have almost 10 times more exotic marine species than previously thought

More than 50 non-endemic species of the Galapagos Islands have found their home there, which is almost ten times the number that scientists managed until now in this area located in the Pacific Ocean, 972 kilometers from the coast of Ecuador.

This is what a new study published by the journal Aquatic Invasions points out and carried out, side by side, by researchers from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the American University Williams College and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

The work, focused on the islands of Santa Cruz and Baltra, two of the largest in the Galapagos, has documented 53 species of non-endemic marine animals in this place , which is a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most protected marine areas. big on Earth. Before the publication of this study, scientists were only aware of five of these species.

Greg Ruiz, co-author of the research and a marine biologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, explains that “this increase in the number of alien species is a surprising discovery, especially since this initial study examined only a small part of the Galapagos Islands .”

For his part, James Carlton, lead author of the research and professor emeritus of the Maritime Studies Program of the Williams College program in Mystic Seaport, points out that “this is the largest increase that has been reported in the recognition of exotic species for any tropical marine region in the world “.

The scientists proceeded to hang settlement plates, a depth of one meter underwater, to check which species grew on them. They also collected samples of mangrove roots , floating docks and other surfaces and searched for previous records of marine species on the islands.

They have discovered a total of 48 more non-native species

The team documented a total of 48 additional alien species in the Galapagos: most of them – 30 – were new discoveries ; 17 others were species that scientists already knew lived here, but were believed to be native to the area; and one, the bryozoan Watersipora subtorquata , was collected in 1987 but had not yet been identified. It is quite likely that most of them arrived on ships from all over the world.

Among the most worrying discoveries is the bryozoan Amathia verticillata – in the photo above – known for fouling pipes and fishing gear and also for destroying seagrasses; as well as the mussel Leiosolenus aristatus , which researchers have detected drilling the corals of the Galapagos.

This archipelago became famous after the passage of Charles Darwin through them in 1835, three years after they were annexed by Ecuador. Composed of 19 islands, it is also one of the most active volcanic regions on the planet and is characterized by extraordinary biodiversity and landscapes.

Image: Dan Minchin / Marine Organism Investigations

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