Galapagos has been in the news quite a bit lately, and not just among the “top 10 best travel destinations” lists that have been cropping up. In this month’s roundup, we highlight some recent news and interesting stories from Galapagos.
New Study Confirms the Decline of Blue-footed Boobies
A new research paper by Dr. David Anderson of Wake Forest University and his team confirmed that the Blue-footed Booby population in Galapagos is having trouble breeding, resulting in a slowly declining population. The current population of boobies is estimated at 6,400 adults, compared to a rough estimate of 20,000 in the 1960s. The study suggests that this decline may be tied to a decline of sardines in the boobies’ diet, and calls for annual data collection to determine whether this is a permanent phenomenon. Dr. Anderson’s study was published in the online journal Avian Conservation and Ecology and reported in The New York Times, National Geographic, and other major media outlets. Read more about the project, which received funding from Galapagos Conservancy.
Peter and Rosemary Grant Release New Book: 40 Years of Evolution
Peter and Rosemary Grant, evolutionary biologists at Princeton University, are well-known in the scientific community for their research on Darwin’s finches over the past 40 years. Their latest book published in April by Princeton University Press targets both lay readers and scientists familiar with their work, discussing their findings on natural selection, beak size variations, the potential effect of global warming on Darwin’s finches, and much more. Read the article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly detailing the Grants’ life work and inspiration for their new book.
Changing Sea Levels and Biological Diversity in Galapagos
The unique biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands famously provided Charles Darwin with his insights into evolution by natural selection — but little research has been done on exactly how different animals came to be distributed across the islands. A new study in the online Journal of Biogeography suggests that rising and falling sea levels played a key role in the distribution of species across Galapagos by continuously connecting and isolating the different islands. Read Henry Nicholls’ summary of the study on his blog “Animal Magic,” hosted by The Guardian.
Art Meets Ocean: The Sounds of Galapagos
This project from the Vienna-based foundation, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) integrates art, science, and sustainability to bring the unique sounds of ocean life to your computer. Listen to audio clips of marine iguanas expelling salt on Floreana Island, flightless cormorants at their nesting site on Fernadina, and a giant tortoise “retreating into its shell” on Santa Cruz, among others. This project came from a four-year expedition initiated by the foundation’s academy program to record ocean life using underwater techniques, with the goal of calling attention to fragile marine life through a series of art installations. Listen to sounds from the Galapagos on National Geographic’s “Ocean Views.”
Just for Fun: 19 Bizarre and Beautiful Starfish Species
Mother Nature Network posted images of starfish from around the world in its April article, 19 Bizarre and Beautiful Starfish Species. The chocolate-chip starfish is included on the list, which can be seen by snorkelers and divers in Galapagos waters — particularly off of Santiago and Española Islands. We were struck by the impressive array of shapes, sizes, and colors of these interesting creatures across the globe.
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