Galápagos islands waters video

This video says about itself:

Dive Into the Wildlife-Rich Waters of the Galápagos | National Geographic

17 February 2018

The Galápagos Archipelago, Darwin’s living laboratory, is home to an abundance of wildlife. Isolated from the mainland for millions of years, it is that rare wilderness where animals have no instinctive fear of humans.

Featuring marine iguanas, sea turtles and others.


Blue-footed boobies video

This 14 February 2018 video from the Galapagos islands in Ecuador says about itself:

The Blue Footed Boobies Mating Dance | Wild Love

Blue footed boobies are masters of seduction and their blue feet are real eye-candy!

Deep-sea rays use hydrothermal vents for incubating eggs

This video says about itself:

Deep-Sea Skates Incubate Eggs Near Hydrothermal Vents | Nautilus Live

8 February 2018

In June 2015, a team of researchers aboard E/V Nautilus made a surprising discovery while exploring the seafloor northwest of the Galapagos Islands. Large numbers of skate egg cases were observed near hydrothermal vents emitting volcanically-heated fluids. Researchers believe the warmer water helps to incubate and speed development of the embryos–the first time this behavior has been observed in marine animals. The Bathyraja spinosissima, commonly known as Pacific white skate, is a relative of sharks and rays. As one of the deepest living skate species, this species is rarely seen but has been documented from the Galapagos Islands to the Pacific Northwest.

The research team from Charles Darwin Research Station, University of Rhode Island, and the Galapagos National Park Directorate collected video surveys and specimens using ROV Hercules, recently publishing their findings in Scientific Reports.

From Penn State university in the USA:

Deep-sea fish use hydrothermal vents to incubate eggs

February 12, 2018

Summary: An international team of researchers have discovered egg cases of deep-sea fish near hydrothermal vents. The team believes that deep-sea skates, a relative of sharks and rays, use the warm water near the vents to accelerate the typically years-long incubation time of their eggs.

Some deep-sea skates — cartilaginous fish related to rays and sharks — use volcanic heat emitted at hydrothermal vents to incubate their eggs, according to a new study in the journal Scientific Reports. Because deep-sea skates have some of the longest egg incubation times, estimated to last more than four years, the researchers believe the fish are using the hot vents to accelerate embryo development. This the first time such behavior has been seen in marine animals.

“Hydrothermal vents are extreme environments, and most animals that live there are highly evolved to live in this environment,” said Charles Fisher, Professor and Distinguished Senior Scholar of Biology at Penn State and an author of the paper. “This study is one of the few that demonstrates a direct link between the vent environment and animals that live most of their life elsewhere.”

Among the least explored and unique ecosystems, deep-sea hydrothermal fields are regions on the sea floor where hot water emerges after being heated in the ocean crust. In their study, an international team of researchers, led by Pelayo Salinas-de-León of the Charles Darwin Research Station, used a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to survey in and around an active hydrothermal field located in the Galapagos archipelago, 28 miles north of Darwin Island.

“The first place the ROV landed on the sea floor was on a ridge, in the plume of a nearby hydrothermal vent that we had specifically come to investigate — a black smoker,” said Fisher. “When we panned the camera down, we found something we did not expect: These giant egg cases, also known as mermaid purses. And we found several layers of them, indicating that whatever was laying these eggs had been coming back to this spot for many years to lay them. As the dive progressed, we saw more and more of these egg cases and realized that this was not the result of a single animal, but rather a behavior shared by many individuals.”

The researchers found 157 egg cases in the area and collected four with the ROV’s robotic arm. DNA analysis revealed that the egg cases belonged to the skate species Bathyraja spinosissima, one of the deepest-living species of skates that is not typically thought to occur near the vents. The majority — 58 percent — of the observed egg cases were found within about 65 feet of the chimney-like black smokers, the hottest kind of hydrothermal vents, and over 89 percent had been laid in places where the water was hotter than average. The researchers believe that the warmer temperatures in the area could reduce the typically years-long incubation time of the eggs.

While several species of reptiles and birds lay their eggs in locations that optimize soil temperatures, only two other groups of animals are known to use volcanically heated soils: the modern-day Polynesian megapode — a rare bird native to Tonga — and a group of nest-building neosauropod dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period.

Because of their long lifespan and slow rate of development, deep-water skates may be particularly sensitive to threats to their environment, including fisheries expanding into deeper waters and sea-floor mining. Understanding the development and habitat of the skates is vital for developing effective conservation strategies for this poorly understood species.

“The deep sea is full of surprises,” said Fisher. “I’ve made hundreds of dives, both in person and virtually, to deep sea hydrothermal vents and have never seen anything like this.”

Galapagos tortoises breeding again

This video says about itself:

The Incredible Story Of How Giant Galapagos Tortoises Started Breeding Again After A 100 Years

3 January 2018

When researchers realized that none of the few remaining giant tortoises on the Galapagos Island of Pinzón were younger than 70 years old, they knew that something was seriously amiss.

Why Galapagos cormorants are flightless

This video from the USA says about itself:

How did the Galapagos cormorant lose half its wings? | UCLA Health Newsroom

UCLA geneticist Alejandro Burga explains how genetic mutations during evolution shortened the Galapagos cormorant‘s wings, leaving it the only one of the 40 cormorant species that’s unable to fly. The changes affect the same genes linked to a human bone disorder characterized by stunted arms and legs. The UCLA discovery may led to new treatments for people with skeletal ciliopathies.

From the University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences in the USA:

How the Galapagos cormorant lost its ability to fly

Changes to same genes that clipped the bird’s wings also cause human bone disorders

June 1, 2017

Summary: Changes to the genes that shortened the Galapagos cormorant’s wings are the same genes that go awry in a group of human bone disorders characterized by stunted arms and legs, suggests new research. The findings shed light on the genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution of limb size and could eventually lead to new treatments for people with skeletal ciliopathies.

The flightless cormorant is one of a diverse array of animals that live on the Galapagos Islands, which piqued Charles Darwin’s scientific curiosity in the 1830s. He hypothesized that altered evolutionary pressures may have contributed to the loss of the ability to fly in birds like the Galapagos cormorant.

In a new study unraveling the cormorant’s DNA, UCLA scientists discovered genetic changes that transpired during the past 2 million years and contributed to the bird’s inability to fly. Interestingly, when these same genes go awry in humans, they cause bone-development disorders called skeletal ciliopathies.

Published June 2 in the journal Science, the findings shed light on the genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution of limb size and could eventually lead to new treatments for people with skeletal ciliopathies.

“A number of these iconic, salient evolutionary changes occurred in the Galapagos,” said senior author Leonid Kruglyak, chair of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Darwin, just by looking at these changes, inferred the process of evolution by natural selection. We now have sophisticated genetic tools to reexamine these classic examples and uncover what happened at the molecular level.”

The Galapagos cormorant, with its short, scraggly wings, is the only one of 40 cormorant species that cannot fly. It is also the largest of the cormorants, and a strong swimmer that dives for its meals of fish.

Researchers, including Darwin, have proposed two evolutionary paths for the loss of flight. In some cases, changes that lead to flightlessness may help birds survive because they enhance their ability to do something else, like swimming — so-called positive selection.

Alternatively, the birds may have lost their ability to fly simply because they didn’t need to migrate or escape from predators. When flying isn’t essential for survival, the mutations that hinder flight can gradually accumulate in the gene pool.

“These two scenarios aren’t mutually exclusive,” said Kruglyak, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “You can start down the path because of passive loss of flight but then also have positive selection to keep reducing wings.”

A trip to the Galapagos Islands launched Kruglyak’s interest in the cormorants. Together with first author Alejandro Burga, a postdoctoral fellow in Kruglyak’s lab, they contacted Patricia Parker, a professor of zoological studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She had obtained Galapagos cormorant DNA samples for a previous study and agreed to collaborate on this project.

The researchers sequenced the genomes of flightless cormorants and three other cormorant species to zero in on genetic changes possibly linked to flight. They next used a program capable of determining whether the genetic changes they identified were likely to affect protein structure and function.

Their analyses led them to a gene called CUX1, which was previously linked to shortened wings in chickens. The scientists noticed that Galapagos cormorants possessed a different version of CUX1 than its flying relatives.

“We saw a mutation in this gene that we’ve never seen in other animals,” Burga said. The team confirmed that the changes to the CUX1 gene altered the protein’s function, likely affecting wing size.

The team also found that the flightless cormorants have an abnormally high number of genetic mutations affecting cilia — small, hair-like structures that protrude from cells and regulate everything from normal development to reproduction.

Cilia play a critical role in bone growth. People born with skeletal ciliopathies have shorter limbs, narrowed chests and stunted rib cages — as do the Galapagos cormorants. The UCLA results suggest that CUX1 controls many aspects of cilia, some of which influence bone growth.

Future studies, Kruglyak said, will explore whether other flightless birds, like the ostrich and kiwi, share mutations with the Galapagos cormorant, and whether these genes can help biologists better understand evolution and limb development.

“Loss of flight is something that has taken place in birds frequently,” Kruglyak said. “There’s a pretty rich field trying to understand how all these changes happen and whether common trajectories exist between species.”

Galapagos penguins in trouble

This 2014 video says about itself:

Abbi Helfer discusses how the behavior of the Galapagos penguin helps it to manage the equatorial heat.

From BirdLife:

11 Apr 2017

The penguin that paddles in paradise

No huddles please for the Galapagos Penguin; this tropical trooper calls the warm waters of the equator its home. But life in paradise is anything but a walk in the sun for the world’s rarest penguin…

By Alex Dale

If the concept of penguins frolicking on African beaches or waddling across New Zealand cityscapes blows your mind, then hold on to your flippers, because the reach of this remarkable family of birds extends much further north than that. Indeed, the northernmost-dwelling species of penguin has found a home on a sweltering tropical archipelago straddling the equator – about as far removed from popular imagery of penguins shivering on the South Pole as you’re likely to get.

We’re on the Galapagos – a chain of volcanic islands located 563 miles east of its parent country, Ecuador. The islands need no introduction to nature enthusiasts – their biodiversity and wealth of endemic species is the stuff of legend, and famously, the observations made by Charles Darwin when he visited the islands in the 19th century formed the backbone of his influential theories of evolution and natural selection.

And by rights, the Galapagos Penguin Spheniscus mendiculus should be the poster child for evolution. Exactly how, thousands of years after they first washed up on these shores, has this diminutive penguin adapted to life in this most un-penguin-like of environments?

The answer: er, not without some difficulties. In order to survive in the scorching equatorial sun, Darwin’s theories have had to work overtime. Physically, the Galapagos Penguin has evolved to become smaller than most other penguins, a tactic that helps it keep cool, as animals with smaller surfaces areas can lose heat more efficiently.

It has also evolved to grow fewer feathers, and there are even patches of bare skin that help to radiate the sun’s heat away from its body. And at times when even these measures aren’t enough to cool down, you’ll find the penguins in their trademark pose, flippers outstretched to catch the cool sea breeze, panting like a dog. Take a closer look and you’ll see they take good care to hunch forward, shielding their feet from the baking sunlight.

The unique challenges of their island landscape has forced the Galapagos Penguin to change its breeding cycle as well as its build and its behaviour. It has become an opportunist. Instead of following strict breeding cycles like other species, the Galapagos Penguin couple for life and stay near their nesting sites all year round, ready and waiting for the chance to arise.

The species needs to remain open-minded about when to get down, because the availability of its food sources is completely at the mercy of the unpredictable ocean currents. Only when the sea temperature falls below a certain level, bringing with it a rise in nutrients (and subsequently small fish), will the penguins attempt to breed. It is testament to the resiliency of the penguin family that this tiny species has managed to carve out a niche for itself in such a seemingly alien environment.

Yet, it remains the rarest and most endangered of all the penguins, with an estimated population of just 1,200, and the main threat to their continued survival is a familiar one, one that evolution often struggles to keep pace with – human impact. Like fellow Endangered species Northern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes moseleyi, the Galapagos Penguin’s restricted range means that just one single event could prove disastrous. 95% of the world’s Galapagos Penguins are confined to just two islands – Isabela and Fernandina.

This stronghold falls within the boundaries of Galapagos National Park, allowing authorities to effectively tackle local threats such as invasive species and human disturbance of breeding areas. But a bigger threat to the species’ future is something that can’t be weeded out by boots-on-the-ground conservationists: climate change.

The same unpredictable climate cycle that dictates the Galapagos Penguins’ breeding habits can, and does, wipe out huge swathes of the population. The phenomenon is known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) – an irregular variation in pressure that results in periodic rises and falls of the ocean surface temperature. So, just as the cooler periods bring a bumper crop of fish, so do too elongated periods of warmer temperature bring famine.

Such a happening from 1982-1983 resulted in the near-catastrophic loss of 77% of the entire penguin population, and another from 1997-1998 resulted in a crash of 66%. Both times, the penguin populations managed to rebound, but the recovery was slow and this is what worries conservationists on the island.

Dr. Gustavo Jiménez is senior researcher at the Charles Darwin Foundation, an NGO that has, since 1959, worked to provide scientific knowledge to aid the conservation of Galapagos’ wild-life. “The hypothesis is that the climate change is affecting natural processes such as El Niño”, he says. “If El Niño events come to the Galapagos more frequently, and stronger, it will not give the species time to recover.”

In order to better understand the long-term trends and prospects of the species, the Charles Darwin Foundation performs three annual monitoring exercises, tagging individuals and nests, and holds a census to compare year-on-year survival and mortality rates. Jiménez is clear on the consequences if El Niño’s effects are felt more frequently – the extinction of the species. But the solution is harder to pin down.

“Through research and information sharing, we hope we can show the impact of El Niño to politicians, and maybe they could change the vision in the future”, says Jiménez.

Fail to convince them, and it could finally be the end of this little penguin that, for all those years, has survived against all odds.