Goodbye Galapagos, you're too warm for us

David Usborne
Tuesday 09 February 2010 01:00

Marine scientists are reporting that a colony of sea lions, previously unique to the Galapagos Islands, has unexpectedly decamped 900 miles south-east to an island just off the coast of Peru in what may be another symptom of global warming.

According to the Peru-based Organisation of Research and Conservation of Aquatic Animals, it is the first recorded instance of a colony of Galapagos sea lions abandoning their familiar waters around the archipelago, which belongs to neighbouring Ecuador. About 30 of the animals in the group have moved.

"Never before has a residency of Galapagos sea lions been reported outside of the islands. Individual sea lions have been reported stranded in Ecuador and Colombia, here as well, but never a colony," said Carlos Yaipen, the organisation's president. "This is due to their adaptation to climate change. The conditions of the sea around Piura are now similar to the Galapagos."

The researchers have found that the waters around Peru's Foca Island, where the sea lions have settled, have risen in temperature over the past 10 years from an average of 17C to 23C. That is roughly the same as the surface waters around the Galapagos, which have become a favourite destination of tourists and botanists because of their unique ecosystem and reputation as a living laboratory of evolution.

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