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Habitat Zones (Discovering Galapagos)

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Transcript of Habitat Zones (Discovering Galapagos)

Discovering Galapagos
Habitat Zones
Sandy Bottoms
This habitat is formed when water movement is not strong enough to wash sediment away.
Sandy bottom habitats are more common along coasts and the deep sea.
The flow of sea currents can lead to sediment being moved frequently. This may produce a rippled effect which offers habitats for different species.
Although it may appear to be lacking in life, this habitat is home to bivalves or molluscs such as
mussels
and
oysters
.
Burrowing species such as the
sea cucumber
are also present.
Plankton are either suspended in the sediment where suspension feeders can feed, or settles on the surface. Plankton is the beginning of the food chain, or the producer, or sandy bottom habitats.
© Smithsonian Journeys
Larger
rays
that live in the Galapagos are often seen with a species of fish called
remoras
. As a type of cleaner fish, they attach themselves to the ray and remove annoying parasites from their skin.
While Galapagos does not have a large area of coral reef, experts such as Professor Terry Dawson (University of Southampton) confirms that existing corals contribute significantly to species richness and diversity in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
Corals require certain conditions to develop and grow: minimal temperatures between 18-20 degrees C, clear water to allow the filtration of light and depths of not exceeding 30 m.
Coral Reef
Animal Species found in Corals
The coral reefs of the Galapagos are home to rare and endemic corals, which are of course classified as animals. Although not particularly diverse itself, the surrounding reef environment supports a rich variety of species, including
sea anemones
,
echinoderms
(starfish and sea urchins),
molluscs
,
cephalopods
(squid, octopus, nautilus),
crustaceans
(including barnacles, shrimps, lobsters) and many species of fish.
Plant Species found in Corals
Plant species, or photosynthetic organisms on the reefs include the tiny
zooxanthellae
that live within the coral, providing nutrients,
algae
,
phytoplankton
and
sea grasses
.
Animals Species in Sandy Bottoms
Plant Species in Sandy Bottoms
Grasses are the only marine plants that live on soft bottoms, where they trap sediments in their roots. They can provide shelter and food for animal species.
The Open Ocean
Although the open ocean is vast, it is still relatively unknown.
Within it, two zones exist: the
photic
zone, where light can penetrate and organisms photosynthesize, and the
aphotic
zone, where light fades into complete darkness. In addition to plankton and phytoplankton, larger marine species will dominate (because they can cope with the strong oceanic currents).
Animal Species in the Open Ocean
In the open ocean environment an array of species can be found.
Of the invertebrates,
squid
dominate.
Larger species of fish such as
tuna
, whose powerful muscles enable it to pursue prey in bursts of speed,
flying fish
and
swordfish
can be also be found here.
Galapagos is also home to larger species of shark, including the
Galapagos shark
,
tiger shark
and colossal
whale shark
. Schools of the
scalloped hammerhead shark
are popular with divers.
Larger species of ray can also be found in the open ocean, including the
manta ray
and
eagle ray
.
Cetaceans are present, such as the
bottlenose dolphin
and
common dolphin
, baleen whales including the h
umpback whale
and
sei whale
, and toothed whales such as the
orca
and
false killer whale
.
Plant Species in the Open Ocean
Phytoplankton
particles that are suspended in the water photosynthesise. These are the primary producers in the open ocean. They in turn are consumed by
zooplankton
and smaller marine species.
Arid Zone
The arid zone has the largest and most extensive vegetation zone and exists on all of the main islands. Smaller and lower islands such as Rabida are completely in the arid zone.
Most of the landscape is dominated by lava, ash and cinder, where many species have developed specific drought tolerant adaptations.
Plant Species in the Arid Zone
Many of the plant species are endemic, having evolved strategies to cope with high temperatures and little moisture.
The vegetation zone is dominated by the white barked
palo santo trees
and
prickly pear cactus
, whose bright yellow flowers attract the
carpenter bee
. The tall
candelabra cactus
and a pioneer species, the
lava cactus
, can also be found in the arid zone.
Lava lizards
favour the grey
matplan
t (
Tiquila nesiotica
) for its tiny white flowers which are the only plant species that can be found growing on ash covered slopes.
Animal Species in the Arid Zones
Reptiles favour this dry, barren landscape, including
land iguanas
,
lava lizards
and species of
snake
.
Iguanas
feed on moisture rich cactus pads, whilst the three species of snake predate upon
lava lizards
,
geckos
,
rats
and
grasshoppers
, and occasionally, nestlings of
mockingbirds
and
finches
.
The
Galapagos centipede
, being of immense proportions of up to 30cm long, also favours this habitat, where it will feed on other invertebrates,
lizards
and
small birds
! Other invertebrates are common in this zone, although can be tricky to spot, often taking shelter from the harsh conditions.
Birds such as the
blue-footed, red-footed and nazca booby
,
frigatebird
and
storm petrel
choose this zone to nest and rear chicks.
Transition Zone
Animal Species in the Transition Zone
Many of the land birds common to the islands appear in this zone, along with the
Galapagos giant tortoise
.
Many invertebrates can be found in this zone, but are not always easy to find, some being nocturnal, others seeking shelter from the weather conditions.
Plant Species in the Transition Zone
As
lichens
are tolerant to dry and damp weather conditions, their number increases in this zone.
The transition zone lies between the dry arid and moist humid zones, and as such receives higher rainfall than the arid zone, allowing an increased number of herbs and
lichens
to thrive.
Biodiversity begins to increase in this zone, and deciduous trees such as the
Galapagos guava
begin to take the place of the familiar white
palo santo
.
It covers a large area of the Galapagos, but can vary in size from island to island, covering a much larger area for example on Santa Cruz, to being virtually non-existent on Fernandina.
The trees that grow here are more closely spaced and taller, with an increased understorey of shrubs, some of which cannot be found in the lower arid zone. A common plant in this zone is called pega pega, meaning ‘stick stick,’ as it has sticky fruits.
Scalesia Zone
Existing only on higher islands and bordering the transient zone, the
scalesia
zone is the lowest lying of the humid zones, and is dominated by the endemic scalesia forests.
This zone is also known as the beginning of the ‘Highlands,’ where rainfall can be between 300 and 1,700 mm annually (Hannah 1981).
Being saturated by garua mists in the dry season, the trunks and branches of the trees are covered in epiphytes. The trees have a short life cycle of approximately 15-25 years, and during periods of El Niño, die back to regrow rapidly in the following years.
Animal Species in the Scalesia Zone
Plant Species in the Scalesia Zone
One of the most iconic species in Galapagos can be found in the highlands of Santa Cruz: the
Galapagos giant tortoise
. The humid conditions provide a rich diet of lush vegetation.
Many bird species, mostly endemic, including the
Galapagos mockingbird
,
short-eared owl
,
Galapagos dove
,
yellow warbler
,
flycatchers
and
finches
can also be seen in this zone. They feed on the rich diet of invertebrates, whose numbers dramatically increase during the wet season and after El Niño.
Among the tall
Scalesia
trees, of which there are at least 15 different species, some herbaceous plants including ferns can be found.
There are fewer species of shrubs. Epiphytes include many
mosses
and
liverworts
, as well as bromeliads,
orchids
and
ferns
.
Pampa Zone
The pampa (meaning grassland) zone is the highest and wettest of all the humid zones, sometimes receiving a vast amount of rain, on occasion up to 2.5m!
Rising from approximately 650m up to 900m above sea level it is shrouded in mists during the garua season. Erosion from wind and rain at these altitudes is higher than in other humid zones.
Animal Species in the Pampa Zone
Like the miconia zone, the amount of rainfall and damp conditions means that birds struggle to survive. Only the ground-nesting species of Galapagos rail, also known as the Galapagos crake can be found.
Plant Species in the Pampa Zone
Here there are few native plants. With a lack of trees, the ground is covered mostly in ferns, sedges, grasses, and mosses.
Hydrothermal Vents
The discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents in 1977 on the Galapagos Rift revolutionised our view and understanding of life in the depths of the oceans.
The assumption that all life was fuelled by solar energy and photosynthesis in the photic zones was challenged when it was realised that these ecosystems were fueled by chemosynthetic bacteria. These bacteria oxidise compounds to provide energy for creating organic compounds from carbon dioxide.
Vents occur where there is volcanic activity. The cracks in the seafloor let water percolate through the ocean crust where it is heated by nearby chambers of magma.
The super hot water—sometimes 750ºF (400ºC)—dissolves metals and salts as it travels through rocks, eventually rising and gushing out of the hydrothermal vents. These searing vents are responsible for the chemistry of the world's oceans.
Animal Species that live by Hydrothermal Vents
The
bacteria
are the primary producers. They use the gas hydrogen sulphide as an energy source. For most animals on land, hydrogen sulphide is highly toxic. Some animals feed on the bacteria, whilst others may absorb organic molecules released when the bacteria die.
The primary consumers are
clams
,
mussels
and
worms
that either graze on the dense mats of the bacteria or filter them from the water. The clams are large and have the fastest growth rate of any deep-sea species! The worms, called
tube worms
, have a special covering protecting their bodies. They can grow up to 3m in length!
Other species found include
barnacles
,
anemones
,
crabs
,
snails
,
small limpets
,
squat lobsters
and
fish
.
Plant Species that live by Hydrothermal Vents
As mentioned earlier, it is not plant species that are the primary producers in this unique habitat, but bacteria that do not rely on energy from the sun. As such, there are no plant species in vent communities.

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