Las Islas Galápagos

…A journey to the birthplace of modern evolutionary theory.

@oceanconservancy @natgeo

#EndlessBlueGalapagos by #BrentAlex

20141019-20141019-IMG_8684.jpg

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor)

Major nesting populations of #Frigatebirds are found in the #Pacific (including the #GalapagosIslands) and Indian Oceans, as well as a population in the South Atlantic. The great #frigatebird (Fregata minor) of the#Galapagos Islands is a lightly built, large seabird up to 105 cm (1.05 meters) long with predominantly black plumage. 

Feeding in pelagic waters within 80 km (50 miles) of their breeding colony or roosting areas. The frigatebirds have the highest ratio of wing area to body mass and the lowest wing loading of any bird and have a wide population distribution throughout the world’s tropical seas. Great Frigatebirds are seasonally monogamous with pair bonding and nest building completed in a few days. The pair and can take two years from mating with only one egg laid each season. Incubation lasts 55 days. Young fledglings continue to receive parental care between 150–428 days, one of the longest terms of any seabird. Frigatebirds do not produce enough oils to land on the water nor can they take off if they were to accidentally land, so prey is snatched while in flight, either from just below the surface or from the air. They are known to harass other birds to the point of exhaustion, causing them to release their catch or regurgitate their meal. #Flyingfish of the family#Exocoetidae are the most common diet of the Great Frigatebird. They will follow schools of predatory #tuna and pods of #dolphins that push schooling fish to the surface. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

A husband and wife photo team aboard @celebrity_cruises grab a shot of the Great ‪#‎Frigatebirds‬ soaring between the coasts of ‪#‎IslaBaltra‬ and Bahia Gardiner.

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

I could watch Marine Iguana's all day. Sun-bathing, free-diving, scaley algae feeders, these creatures are something else. I'm completely jealous of their lifestyle. ‪#‎EspañolaIsland‬‪#‎Galápagos‬.

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Land of the Lost.
‪#‎PuntaSuarez‬ ‪#‎EspañolaIsland‬

... With nary a foothold along the sand and volcanic path not covered by the magnificent Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) on Española Island, the endemic marine reptile bares an impressive resume of evolutionary and morphologic genetic skill. The bullet points of their C.E.O. resume read a mile long.
My 2 favorite:
{C}· Self starter (extensive free-diving and foraging experience)
{C}· Ability to adapt to unique, harsh environments

Mr. Marine Iguana C.E.O. was quoted as saying that he “pretty much hitch-hiked across the Pacific on a raft and decided to eat, sleep and mate efficiently. “ Truly words of wisdom from a thermoregulatory maestro.

One of the many intersting facts about the creature-
Adult males weigh from a maximum of 12-3 kg on southern Isabela to about 1-2 kg on Genovesa. The reason for this difference in body size of marine iguanas between islands is due to "variability in algal productivity and sea surface temperature."(1)

(1) Reilly, Stephen M.; McBrayer, Lance D.; Miles, Donald B., eds. (2007). "16: The Evolution of Foraging Behavior in the Galápagos Marine Iguana: Natural and Sexual Selection on Body Size Drives Ecological, Morphological, and Behavioral Specialization". Lizard Ecology. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 491-507.

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Here I am enjoying an early morning dive lesson from a handful of playful‪#‎Galapagos‬ ‪#‎SeaLions‬. Blowing bubbles and spinning yourself into knots is all part of the fun. Espinoza Point, ‪#‎FernandinaIsland‬.

photo: Heather Beckman

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Pirouette.

‪#‎Galapagos‬ ‪#‎SeaLion‬
Punta Cormorant, ‪#‎FloreanaIsland‬
01-12.75 S, 090-25.91 W

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Last minute costume idea- Ecuadorian dried jerky Marine Iguana??

Happy Halloween from Española Island ‪#‎Galapagos‬.

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

20141019-DSCN0064-2.jpg

Galápagos Mockingbird

One of four ‪#‎endemic‬ ‪#‎mockingbird‬ species to the Galápagos Islands, Mimus parvulus is found on most of the major (and many minor) islands of the Galapagos archipelago.

Española Island, ‪#‎Galapagos‬
#EndlessBlueGalapagos
#BrentAlex

A British couple touring with @celebritycruises Xpeditions spots a pair of Green Sea Turtles mating in the surf at Cormorant Point on ‪#‎FloreanaIsland‬,‪#‎Galapagos‬.

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Named not for the color of its shell, but for the greenish color of its skin, their shell is normally brown or olive depending on its habitat. The green ‪#‎turtle‬has a large, smooth heart-shaped carapace (‪#‎shell‬), measuring up to 5 feet (1.5 m) long. It inhabits ‪#‎tropical‬ and subtropical coastal waters around the world and is one of the few marine ‪#‎turtles‬ to leave the water other than at nesting times. They have been seen sunbathing with albatrosses and seals.

Adult green turtles are herbivorous, feeding on sea grasses and ‪#‎algae‬, while juveniles will also eat invertebrates such as ‪#‎crabs‬, jellies, and‪#‎sponges‬.

Scientists are currently debating whether the two types of green turtles are subspecies or separate ‪#‎species‬. These include the Atlantic green turtle, found off the shores of Europe and North America, and the Eastern Pacific green turtle, which resides in the coastal waters from Alaska to Chile.

Urvina Bay. Isabela Island, ‪#‎Galapagos‬.
00-24.20 S, 091-26-13 W

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Amblyrhynchus cristatus.

A camera shy ‪#‎MarineIguana‬ foraging on marine flora within the ‪#‎intertidal‬zone of ‪#‎FloreanaIsland‬ zips up and over a ‪#‎kelp‬-covered section of volcanic ‪#‎reef‬. The species' slightly laterally compressed tail efficiently moves the Marine Iguana along the surface or beneath the ‪#‎water‬. Their long, sharp, recurved ‪#‎claws‬ permit the Marine Iguana to hold fast to the‪#‎lava‬ reefs in heavy seas or while feeding under water. Marine Iguanas are only found in the ‪#‎Galapagos‬ Islands archipelago off the coast of ‪#‎Ecuador‬.

Punta Cormorant 01-12.75 S, 090-25.91 W. Floreana Island

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

A slumbering white-tipped reef shark catches some Zzz's along the sea floor of North Seymour, Santa Cruz Island.  

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Sharks above and below the waterline, just the way I like it.

North Seymour, Santa Cruz Island. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Life, Light & Love. All of which pour down abundantly upon Las Islas Galápagos.

South Plaza Island. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

20141022-IMG_9370-2.jpg

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) 

Punta Moreno, Isabela Island. 

Flamingos are wading birds and according to the fossil record, were once widespread. Presently, however, they are restricted to inhospitable habitats, shallow saline lakes and brackish coastal lagoons. Flamingos are able to withstand adverse conditions including high water temperature and water salinity. Where other wader and shorebirds cannot feed, the flamingos enjoy an uncontested feeding niche. Webbed feet allow them to walk on the mud without sinking, while scaly legs help withstand high water salinity.

Flamingos are most often observed wading in small lagoons with shallow waters where they feed mostly on algae, shrimps and other aquatic invertebrates by filtering them out from the water. Dangling their head down into the water, their down-curved bill is then pointed backwards, parallel with the bottom. Swinging their heads from side to side, the tongue acts as a pump, sucking in food floating in the water. The tongue then squeezes the water against the bill with its rows of lamellae (comb-like structure), trapping the tiny prey.

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Namaste. A Marine Iguana on Española Island worshs the great fire in the sky that gives life, love and light.

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Boudewijn Goddeeris of Ottenburg, Belgium bares a striking resemblance to what I imagine Charles Darwin might have looked like if he were exploring Española Island in the year 2015 with a Canon 5Dii. Boudewijn is an ecologist and an accomplished researcher in the field of morphology and plate tectonics. His greatest fascination in life is bird watching and as we hiked around the Galapagos Islands together I couldn’t help but find a greater appreciation for these magnificent creatures as well. One evening I stopped by his quarters to hear him give a wonderful lecture and PowerPoint on these topics.

He states, “taxonomy now uses DNA analysis for studying relationships and heredity between organisms but they forget that studying the morphology of an organism is the true passport for entering nature, the ecosystem or biotope. They further analyze molecules but they forget the morphology, which is the transcript of DNA and the means to writing down the heredity of the organism.”

He further went on to state, “morphology is the constitution by which DNA is transcribed.” Boudewijn emphasized his point by stating, “it is not changes in DNA that are adaptations, rather they are the physiological or morphological changes which define an organism.”

As he continued to define Taxonomy, he mentions “30 years ago only morphology was used to do such tasks. But with technology came the possibility to cheaply analyze DNA sequences (the way in which heredity in cells is written down.) The selection of traits works through the physiology and morphology, indirectly affecting DNA sequence.”

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Hoja de Cristal

Gardner Bay. Española Island, ‪#‎Galapagos‬. 01-20.45 S, 089-39.10 W

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Giving chase to a Diamond Stingray (Dasyatis dipterura) along the rocky reefs of Española Island, Galapagos. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

2014.10.kodakgold200.c35093-2.jpg

The infectiously positive and upbeat Celebrity X Cruise Operations Director Monica reminds a guest to lace up her "good walking shoes," preceding a water taxi ride to hike Isla Fernandina. Century 35 NE Graflex 35mm. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

My stairway to wanderlust on Floreana Island. Century 35 NE Graflex 35mm. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Alexis, an Ecuadorian naturalist with Parque Nacional Galápagos, recounts Mother Nature's violent relationship between the Nasca and South American Plate. Century 35 NE Graflex 35mm. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

The spirit of Isla Floreana peacefully, ever so quietly, with the slightest whisper, inspires the wonder of Mother Nature's deepest secrets. Two Ecuadorian naturalists lead their group across the finest sand I have ever walked upon. Century 35 NE Graflex 35mm. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

The Fascination of Galapagos.

It is written all over their faces.

The connection between humanity and Mother Nature is admired by a trio of tourists returning to their ship aboard a water taxi. The story of the Galapagos carries a moral of preservation and stewardship which must be passed down in order for the next generation to enjoy. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

"Hey honey, remember that one morning on Fernandina Island when a baby sea lion scooted across my path, so close I could've reached out and touch it!"

These stories and more will be told for a lifetime with often the best moments going uncaptured. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Scampering over the reef I spotted a Marchena Lava Lizard (Microlophus habelii). Subsequently, an impromptu staring contest began, which I lost. Of the twenty two species in the genus Tropidurid, nine are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. The remaining species are found along the Andean coastline of Ecuador, Peru and Chile. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Galapagos Land Iguana (Conolophus subristatus) 

From the genus Conolophus, the three species are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They are found primarily on the islands of Fernandina, Isabela, Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Baltra and South Plaza. Their varying morphology and taxonomy coincide with the specific island they inhabit. One such example can be seen on South Plaza Island where the territory of land iguanas and marine iguanas overlap, where the two often interbreed (most likely male marine iguana with female land iguana), creating what is commonly referred to as a hybrid iguana.

With an estimated lifespan of 50-60 years, the prickly-pear cactus fruit makes up over 80% of their diet. The land iguanas have been seen standing on their haunches to apply their weight and leverage on the cactus until it is felled. This behavior is limited to times of scarcity of low hanging, easily scavenged pads. Flower, fruit, pad and even spines of the prickly-pear cactus are consumed (also their main source of water), while the land iguana will scrape the pad of cactus with its claws to remove the most obstructive spines before feeding. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Cactus, it's what's for dinner. (If you are a Galapagos Land Iguana). Santa Cruz Island.

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki)

Gardner Bay, Española Island

01-20.45 S 089-39.10 W

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Famous for their brilliant blue feet, the Blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii) needs no introduction. Perhaps the most beloved resident of the islands aside from the Galapagos giant tortoise, this booby species is on rare occasion, a visitor to the West Coast of the United States.

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

20141021-IMG_8543-2.jpg

Observancia de la Luz

...Witnessing the miracle of life on Las Islas Galápagos and all forms of life through an entire new lens; that is the great lesson of The Galapagos. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

The Slate Pencil Urchin (Eucadris thouarsii) is one of the Echinoderms and a member of the Cidaridae Family. This phylum of marine animals includes brittle stars, sea cucumbers, and sea stars. They are of great scientific interest because their fossil records date to the Cambrian Age (over 500 million years ago).

Presently, 7,000 living species exist while another 13,000 have gone extinct. Urchins move about with many small “tube-feet” just like sea cucumbers and sea stars. While urchins feed on animal and plant materials including algae, barnacles, and decaying detritus, they are popular nutrition for birds, otters, starfish, crabs and humans.

Some of the best Uni Roe in the world is located in California waters and is a favorite in Japan. Native Americans living along the California coast consumed urchins for thousands of years. Today they are harvested commercially under strict restrictions following the 1988 harvest of 52 million pounds (worldwide), leading to widespread population decline. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

20141021-IMG_8376-2.jpg

A pair of snorkelers take in the majesty that is Champion Island reef off the coast of Floreana Island. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

Playing peekaboo with a Galapagos Sea Lion off the coast of Fernandina Island. 

#EndlessBlueGalapagos
‪#‎brentalex‬

20141023-IMG_9986-2.jpg

Amblyrhynchus cristatus.

A camera shy ‪#‎MarineIguana‬ foraging on marine flora within the #intertidalzone of #FernandinaIsland zips up and over an #algae covered section of volcanic ‪#‎reef‬. The species' slightly laterally compressed tail efficiently moves the Marine Iguana along the surface or beneath the ‪#‎water‬. Their long, sharp, recurved ‪#‎claws‬ permit the Marine Iguana to hold fast to the‪#‎lava‬ reefs in heavy seas or while feeding under water. Marine Iguanas are only found in the ‪#‎Galapagos‬ Islands archipelago off the coast of ‪#‎Ecuador‬.

Punta Espinoza 00-15.75 S, 091-26-13 W. Fernandina Island

@oceanconservancy @natgeo
‪#‎EndlessBlueGalapagos‬
‪#‎brentalex‬