New Galapagos giant tortoise species discovery

This video says about itself:

New species of giant tortoise discovered in Galapagos

23 okt. 2015

The new species is named “Chelonoidis donfaustoi” after a retiring park ranger and is also known as the Eastern Santa Cruz tortoise, lives on the eastern side of the island and is genetically different from tortoises on other islands.

From Wildlife Extra:

New species of giant tortoise discovered in the Galapagos Archipelago

Scientists have discovered there are two species of giant tortoises, not just one, living on the island of Santa Cruz in the centre of the Galapagos Archipelago.

There are two populations of giant tortoises on the island: a large population on the west side in an area known as the “Reserve” and another on the lower eastern slopes around a hill named Cerro Fatal. It was previously believed that group of 250 or so giant tortoises living on the east of the island were the same species as those living on the west, but genetic testing have now proved they are two different species.

“This is a small and isolated group of tortoises that never attracted much attention from biologists previously,” said Dr. James Gibbs, from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. “But we now know that they are as distinct as any species of tortoise in the archipelago. Their discovery and formal description will help these tortoises receive the scientific and management attention they need to fully recover.”

The new species has been named Eastern Santa Cruz Tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustoi) in honour of a longtime Galapagos National Park ranger who spent decades developing methods still used today for breeding endangered tortoises. His name is Fausto Llerena Sánchez, known to his friends and colleagues as Don Fausto.

Don Fausto dedicated 43 years (1971-2014) to giant tortoise conservation as a park ranger for the Galapagos National Park Directorate. He was the primary caretaker at the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center on Santa Cruz, which now bears his name. The restoration of several tortoise populations is due in part to Don Fausto’s dedication and efforts.

“It’s to honour Don Fausto for all his dedication and hard work,” Gibbs said. “He devoted his life to saving many critically endangered tortoises through captive breeding. It isn’t easy to breed tortoises in captivity. He didn’t have many resources or much guidance. He figured it out through patient observation, great creativity and intelligence, and tremendous resourcefulness.”

Giant tortoises have been among the most devastated of all Galapagos creatures because of human exploitation, introduced species and habitat degradation. The Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative is a collaborative project of the Galapagos National Park Directorate, Galapagos Conservancy, Caccone’s group at Yale University and others that works toward the long-term restoration of all Galapagos tortoise populations.

Baby Tortoises Show Up In The Galapagos Islands For The First Time In 100 Years. Read more here.

Galápagos sperm whales’ language, new research

This video is called Galapagos – Sperm Whales (August 15 2015).

From National Geographic:

Sperm Whales‘ Language Reveals Hints of Culture

These deep-diving whales off the Galápagos have their own dialects, a sign that they have a culture.

By Jane J. Lee

PUBLISHED September 08, 2015

New ways to grab dinner, the trick to using a tool, and learning the local dialect. These are behaviors that animals pick up from each other. Killer whales, chimpanzees, and birds seem to have a cultural component to their lives. Now a new study suggests that sperm whales should be added to that list.

The ocean around the Galápagos Islands hosts thousands of female sperm whales and their calves that have organized into clans with their own dialects. (Mature males congregate in colder waters near the poles.) How these clans form has been something of a mystery until now.

A study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications suggests that culture—behaviors shared by group members—keeps these sperm whale clans together. Specifically, these deep-diving whales have a distinct series of clicks called codas they use to communicate during social interactions.

Sperm whales with similar behaviors spend time together, and they pick up vocalizations from each other. Scientists call this social learning. Whales that “speak the same language” stick together, giving rise to the clans that researchers have observed for more than 30 years. (Read about humpback whale culture.)

Why It Matters

This is one more pillar of support for the idea that animals have culture, says lead study author Mauricio Cantor, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

When Cantor and colleagues ran computer simulations to determine the most likely way the clans formed, factors like genetic relatedness or the transmission of information from mother to offspring couldn’t explain the pattern observed in the wild. The best explanation their analysis could find was a preference in how sperm whales learned vocalizations. “Like-minded” individuals learned from each other. (Read about dolphin moms that teach their daughters to use tools.)

The Big Picture

It’s fascinating to see that animals like whales display something that may seem uniquely human, Cantor says. But really, “we’re not that different from them.”

Killer whale pods have their own dialects, humpback whales pass on new feeding behaviors via their social networks, and chimpanzees share the secrets of tool use with their compatriots.

Cantor hopes that by learning more and more about animals, people will be moved to think about the environment and perhaps act on calls for conserving the planet.

What’s Next

Cantor and colleagues plan to look back at historic data on sperm whale clans from 30 years ago and compare them with clans today. “We want to know how their [vocalizations have] changed over time.”

Alaskan Sperm Whales Have Learned How to Skim Fishers’ Daily Catch: here.

Rare squid worm seen near Galapagos islands

From CNN in the USA about this 18 June 2015 video:

Ocean explorers studying ocean vents near the Galapagos Islands spotted a rare squid worm never-before-seen in the region. For more visit

Blue whale Isabela’s long journey, new research

This video is called [New Animal documentary 2015] Ocean Voyager Whale Documentary – The Biggest Sea Creatures.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society today:

Scientists studying blue whale DNA uncover an epic journey by ‘Isabela’

14 hours ago

Scientists studying blue whales in the waters of Chile through DNA profiling and photo-identification may have solved the mystery of where these huge animals go to breed, as revealed by a single female blue whale named ‘Isabela,’ according to a recent study by the Chile’s Blue Whale Center/Universidad Austral de Chile, NOAA and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The researchers have discovered that Isabela—a female animal named after the lead author’s daughter and a major Galapagos Island of the same name—has traveled at least once between Chile‘s Gulf of Corcovado and the equatorial waters of the Galapagos Islands, a location more than 5,000 kilometers away and now thought to be a possible blue whale breeding ground. The journey represents the largest north-south migratory movement ever recorded for a Southern Hemisphere blue whale.

The study titled ‘First documented migratory destination for Eastern South Pacific blue whales’ appears today in the online version of the journal Marine Mammal Science.

‘Efforts to protect blue whales and other ocean-going species will always fall short without full knowledge of a species’ migratory range. Moreover, with this kind of findings we encourage eastern south Pacific governments to think about the creation of a marine protected areas network for the conservation of this and other migratory species’ said lead author Juan Pablo Torres-Florez of the Universidad Austral de Chile and the Blue Whale Center. ‘Isabela points us in the right direction for further research.’

‘The discovery emphasizes the benefits of collaboration between scientists and research organizations from different countries,’ said Paula Olson of Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

‘The discovery of Isabela traveling between southern Chile and the waters of Ecuador is important and very timely as we work to promote the recovery of the largest species to ever inhabit the earth,’ said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program. ‘The movement of this one whale provides important information that will enable us to look further at these important areas for blue whales with goal to ensure their long-term protection.’

It is unknown how old Isabela is, or if she has produced any young, but she is at least 82 feet in length and may weigh up to 100 tons.

Seeking to establish links between populations of blue whales in the Gulf of Corcovado and other regions, the researchers examined DNA collected from the skin of blue whales with biopsy darts fired from crossbows across the eastern South Pacific. The team also used data from recorded sightings and photographs in their attempt to connect individual animals to different locations.

The analysis produced a genetic match between a female whale observed and sampled off the coast of southern Chile in the Austral summer of 2006; it turned out the same whale sampled the waters of the Galapagos eight years earlier by NOAA scientists. The team then found that photographs taken of both whales revealed the same distinctively curved dorsal fin and blotchy blue-gray patterns on the back, confirming that both whales were in fact the same animal.

The authors note that blue whales are frequently observed in equatorial Pacific just west of the Galapagos and that a more detailed study might confirm the location as a wintering and breeding ground for at least some of the blue whales of southern Chile.

Reaching nearly 100 feet in length, the blue whale is thought to be the largest animal that ever existed. Blue whales were nearly hunted to extinction by commercial whaling fleets before receiving international protection in 1966. A calf can measure between 23 and 27 feet in length at birth and weigh almost 3 metric tons.

Explore further: Study on world’s biggest animal finds more than one population in the southeastern Pacific

More information: First documented migratory destination for eastern South Pacific blue whales

Journal reference: Marine Mammal Science

Provided by Wildlife Conservation Society

See also here.

Tell President Obama: Protect Blue Whales: here.

Galapagos volcano eruption continues

This 3 June 2015 video says about itself:

Volcano News!! Galapagos Island Volcano Spews River of Lava

Ecuador’s Wolf Volcano in the Galapagos Islands erupted on May 25 for the first time in 33 years. Footage released by the Galapagos National Park shows a glowing river of lava.

From 3 News in New Zealand:

Lava continues to flow from Wolf Volcano

Wednesday 3 June 2015 11:15 p.m.

Tourists in the Galapagos Islands have been given a spectacular view of lava flowing into the ocean as the Wolf Volcano continues erupting.

The volcano began spewing flames, smoke and lava last Monday.

Authorities say the lava is flowing away from the world’s only population of pink iguanas, which live on the island’s northwest tip.

Scientists from Trinity College Dublin have just discovered how to prise volcanic secrets from crystals, which means they are better able to piece together the history of global geography and to predict future eruptions of : here.

Galapagos volcano calms, pink iguanas safe

This is a David Attenborough video on Galapagos pink iguanas.

From AFP news agency:

May 26, 2015

Galapagos volcano calms, pink iguanas out of danger

A volcano in the Galapagos Islands whose fiery eruption raised fears for the world’s only population of pink iguanas has calmed, sparing the unique critters from danger, officials said Tuesday.

Wolf volcano is still showing signs of activity but has died down since a tour boat to the area found it breathing tongues of fire, puffing smoke and spilling bright orange streams of lava Monday, said officials at the Galapagos National Park and Ecuador’s Geophysics Institute.

“We haven’t had any more explosions like yesterday’s, which suggests a decrease in activity. However, there are still lava flows, which is normal in these cases,” said Alexandra Alvarado of the Geophysics Institute.

The island, Isabela, is home to the only known pink land iguanas in the world. The species, Conolophus marthae, lives at the foot of the volcano and is listed as critically endangered, with a population of only about 500.

The area, which is uninhabited by humans, is also home to members of a rare species of giant tortoise, Chelonoidis becki.

But the animals live on the northwest side of the volcano, opposite the , and appear to have been spared from harm, a park official said.

“We will likely carry out more flights over the area, but the are safe, and the tortoises, because the lava is flowing down the opposite side,” the official said.

Wolf volcano had last erupted in 1982.

It is one of five volcanoes on Isabela island, the largest in the Galapagos.

The Pacific archipelago, which sits about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, was made famous by Charles Darwin‘s studies of its breathtaking biodiversity, which was crucial in his development of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

UNESCO, which has declared the Galapagos a World Heritage Site, has warned the islands’ environment is in danger from increased tourism and the introduction of invasive species.

The pink iguanas, which were discovered in 1986, were established as a separate species in 2009 after an analysis of their genetic makeup determined they were distinct from their cousins, the Galapagos land iguanas.

Explore further: Fears for pink iguanas as Galapagos volcano erupts

Thankfully, the animals now appear to be in the clear, along with their neighbours, yellow iguanas and giant tortoises. The volcano is still erupting, but it has calmed down and the lava streams are flowing away from where the animals live: here.

Eight to 16 million years ago, highly explosive volcanism occurred in the area of today’s Galapagos Islands. This is shown for the first time by analyses of core samples obtained by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program in the eastern Pacific Ocean: here.

Galápagos volcano erupts, pink iguana threatened?

This 2012 video is called Sir David Attenborough Reveals The Pink Iguana on Galapagos 3D.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Galápagos Islands volcanic eruption could threaten pink iguana species

The Wolf volcano, located at the highest point of the islands that inspired Charles Darwin, has erupted for the first time in more than 30 years

Tuesday 26 May 2015 03.27 BST

A volcano perched atop one of Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands erupted in the early hours of Monday, the local authorities said, potentially threatening a unique species of pink iguanas.

The roughly 1.7km (1.1 mile) high Wolf volcano is located on Isabela Island, home to a rich variety of flora and fauna typical of the archipelago that helped inspire Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution following his 1835 visit.

“The Wolf volcano is not located near a populated area. There is not risk for the human population. This is the only population of pink iguanas in the world,” Galápagos national park said in a posting on Twitter.

The park posted pictures showing lava pouring down the sides of the Wolf volcano, the Galápagos’ highest point, while a dark plume estimated to be 10km (6.4 miles) high, billowed overhead.

Wolf had been inactive for 33 years, according to the park.

The lava is flowing down the volcano’s southern face while the iguanas, officially an endangered species, inhabit the opposite side, the Environment Ministry said, adding it expected the animals to escape harm.

The flow is likely to reach the sea, however, where it could harm marine life, the Geophysics Institute said separately. While populated areas of the island are safe from the eruption, the institute said some of the ash cloud could descend upon them.

In April, unusual seismic activity was also reported at the Sierra volcano on the same Isabela Island, the archipelago’s biggest, where yellow iguanas and giant turtles also live.

The eruption in Ecuador comes on the heels of eruptions in Chile, another South American country located on the so-called Pacific ring of fire.