Magazine article Oceanus

Beneath the Sea, the Galápagos Reveal More Marvels

Magazine article Oceanus

Beneath the Sea, the Galápagos Reveal More Marvels

Article excerpt

The Galápagos Islands have offered biologists a natural laboratory ever since Charles Darwin's day, but they're also a frontier for geologists and volcanologists to test theories. The thirteen major volcanic islands in the Galápagos archipelago are just the tips of a submerged volcanic platform that rises nearly two miles above the adjacent seafloor.

In August 2015, an international team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) used high-resolution mapping technology to reveal at least 35 previously unknown seamounts, or undersea mountains, on the Galápagos Platform. Using manned submersibles, they found that the seamounts were teeming with rich and diverse communities of fish, crabs, lobsters, sponges, hard and soft corals, and other life.

These observations will help the Galápagos National Park Directorate enhance protection of these delicate ecosystems from fishing and tourism within the Galápagos Marine Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mapping, along with geochemical analyses of rocks collected on submersible dives, will help scientists reconstruct the fundamental volcanic processes that created the Galápagos Platform. …

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