Galapagos News Roundup for the Month of February 2018

Here’s our Galapagos News Roundup for the Month of February 2018!

45 Years of Provincialization in Galapagos 

The 18th of February of this year was the day Galapagos officially celebrated its “45th Anniversary of Provincialization.” The Ecuadorian Minister of the Environment took this opportunity to underline the importance of Galapagos and how it continues to serve as a model for other, similar and delicate ecosystems around the word. In honor of the Anniversary, the inhabited islands organized different events. The Galapagos National Park, for instance, had a parade that saw the local authorities participating.  
The Galapagos Islands continue to be regarded as one of the best conserved volcanic archipelagos in the whole world, thanks in large part to the conservation efforts that have been undertaken throughout the archipelago.   

Galapagos whales.

Our guests experience a closer encounter with the giant whales.


40th Anniversary of a Modern-day Galapagos Discovery and Marriage!  

Peter and Rosemary Grant in Galapagos.

Peter and Rosemary Grant 40 year anniversary.

This coming March, Rosemary and Peter Grant will celebrate the anniversary of their journey to Galapagos back in 1973. How? They’re doing the whole journey all over again by sailing to Galapagos, a la Charles Darwin. Their first journey to Galapagos 40 years ago was also a monumental one, given that it allowed them to observe and measure evolution in real time.  

It’s thanks to the Grant’s that, nowadays, we are more aware that evolution is a process that’s much more dynamic than what Darwin initially imagined it to be. Their work has created the most complete registry of how evolution works in nature and, consequently, the way in which certain mechanisms maintain genetic diversity and why new species originate.  
Their research and discoveries also give conservation efforts a whole new perspective. Their studies have analyzed species evolution in the face of invasive species or extreme climatic events, and how certain pressures can lead to species evolution within a short time frame. 

grants galapagos studies

Evolution of two species of finch studied by the Grants between 1976 and 1978.

The couple is now in their 80’s and are regarded as the closest followers in their field to the father of evolution – Charles Darwin. This time, they’ll be heading to the Galapagos with a prize for Ecology in “Fronteras de Conocimiento” (Frontiers of Knowledge) tucked under their belt, sponsored by FFVA.  
Peter Grant also sees the bigger picture when it comes to conservation efforts. In his mind, evolution is like a theatre play, whereby the actors are just as important as the sets, which is to say – the habitats. From his perspective, too many people worry about the threatened species, rather than paying attention to the conservation of the very places that these species inhabit. “We need to dedicate as much attention to conserving their habitats, rather than just putting the spotlight on the preservation of rhinos, tigers and elephants,” he says. “If we don’t make a considerable effort to protect the habitats of these threatened species and keep them in their most pristine state, it’ll be much harder for us to help conserve biodiversity.” 

Metropolitan Touring Delivers! Our Galapagos Wildlife Expert Gives a TedTalk-style Skype Call to First Graders!

Our product manager and nature expert, Klaus Fielsch, took his time to personally sit down with two first grade students and their teacher (Mrs. Mancha) to talk about one of our biggest iconic species in Galapagos – the blue-footed booby! This mini “TedTalk” for the first graders all came about via our Live Chat for our Santa Cruz II Galapagos cruise whereby Mrs. Mancha, rather than requesting information about our Galapagos Islands tours, requested information about our Galapagos species. It was all for her students that were doing a research project on the matter! Metropolitan Touring was more than delighted to coordinate with her and help her students out. 
It was done via Skype. Klaus managed to fill these kids’ brains with as much information as he could about the extraordinary blue-footed booby, from the colour of their feet all the way to their amusing courtship dance. The first graders and Mrs. Mancha, in the end, were absolutely delighted and grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity to have this firsthand knowledge shared with them!

A Ray Harnessing Volcanic Energy 

Volcanic ray in Galapagos.

Amazing capture of a volcanic ray.

Scientists have observed for the first time ever how a species of ray (Bathyraja spinosissima) that resides in Galapagos is using the volcanic heat emitted by underwater volcanic fumaroles. What’s even more fascinating? It appears they’re doing this to accelerate the incubation period of their eggs, which is estimated to take up to 1,500 days! 
The study was carried out using cutting-edge submarine technology at hydrothermal vents situated north of Darwin Island. The unmanned, remotely piloted submarine was able to discover something fascinating at a depth of 1,600 metres (5,249 feet). What scientists found were eggs of the ray (which look similar to that of sharks) sitting right beside an active hydrothermal fumarole! 
After genetic testing and visual confirmation, taxonomic experts were able to determine that these eggs did in fact belong to the species of ray (Bathyraja spinosissima).  

Volcanic ray eggs.

Volcanic ray eggs found in the Galapagos.

It’s the first time this type of behavior has been documented in the marine world. On land, such behavior has only ever been documented with fossils (principally sauropod dinosaurs) and the Tonga bird. 

Galapagos Sustainability News: Fighting Back Against Plastic

It may come as no surprise that plastic is one of the world’s most abundant residues and one of the hardest to biodegrade.  In the case of Galapagos, plastic is one of the biggest enemies to the species that live there. Good news, though: the “Plan Limpieza Costera 2018” (Coastal Clean-up 2018) is underway. Up until now, the project has determined that up to 95% of waste and garbage collected has been synthetic material, most of which is bottles.   

Galapagos sustainability trash clean up.

Galapagos Sustainability plan.

The biggest victims of said rubbish? Sea turtles and birds, given that the plastic often adheres to the internal digestive system of these animals, who unfortunately don’t ever manage to expel it from their bodies.  
Most of the garbage is carried in via currents from South American coasts and sometimes from as far away as Asia. On average, around 2.5 tons of trash are collected with this recurring project.  
The true way of resolving this garbage issue is by educating and raising awareness throughout the population via of a policy of: reduce, reuse and recycle. Big backers behind this project and initiative are the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment (through the Galapagos National Park) and Conservation International. Additional backers include: the fishing community of Galapagos, the Municipal Government of Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Foundation and the San Francisco University of Quito 

The project is expected to last throughout the following weeks, and not just along the coasts but underwater, too.  The Charles Darwin Foundation will help to identify invasive species that are being transported to the archipelago on the plastic pieces of garbage while the San Francisco University will study the direct impact of garbage on the biodiversity of Galapagos.  

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