Newly discovered coral reef adds to Galapagos Islands' biodiversity riches

"This is very important at a global level because many deepwater systems are degraded."
Nergis Firtina
Coral reef.

A hitherto unidentified coral reef with abundant marine life has been found off Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, the nation's environment ministry announced on Monday.

As per Reuters, the Wellington Reef, located near Darwin Island, was previously thought to be the only Galapagos reef to survive El Nino conditions in 1982 and 1983. Still, the recent discovery demonstrates that another coral has endured, the ministry stated.

"A deepwater scientific expedition has found the first pristine coral reef, approximately two kilometers (1.2 miles) long, at 400 meters (deep), on the summit of a submarine mountain," Environment Minister Jose Davalos said on Twitter. "Galapagos surprises us again!"

"This is very important globally because many deepwater systems are degraded," said Stuart Banks, a senior marine researcher at the Charles Darwin Foundation, who participated in the expedition. He stated that the coral is at least several thousand years old. More than half of the coral on the reef is still alive.

To safeguard endangered migratory animals between the Galapagos and Costa Rica's Cocos Island, the South American nation increased the 138,000 square km (or 60,000 square miles) existing Galapagos marine reserve by 60,000 square km (or 23,166 square miles).

Giant tortoises, albatrosses, cormorants, and other species, some of which are endangered, can be found in the Galapagos, which served as the model for Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

More about coral reefs

An underwater environment known as a coral reef is characterized by corals constructing reefs. Coral polyp colonies are bound together by calcium carbonate to build reefs. Stony corals, whose polyps gather together, comprise most coral reefs.

Sea anemones and jellyfish are members of the animal phylum Cnidaria, and coral is a member of the class Anthozoa. Unlike sea anemones, corals develop tough carbonate exoskeletons that support and defend the coral.

Most reefs thrive in warm, shallow, clear, bright, and turbulent water. At the beginning of the Early Ordovician, 485 million years ago, coral reefs first emerged, replacing the microbial and sponge reefs of the Cambrian.

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