Published on August 17th, 2009 | by Daniel Hohler
Tourist Mosquitoes Threaten the Galapagos
If you could declare a home town of evolution it would be the Galapagos Islands. Back in 1835 a sea sick young naturalist, Charles Darwin, landed on the Galapagos to conduct a little research. That research was the genesis of Darwin’s seminal work “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.” Darwin was inspired by the grand variety of animals filling specific niches on the islands.
Now tourism is threatening to wipe out the animals which inspired one of the most important works in all of science. This time, for once, humans are not the main bad guy in this story. Although, as often the case, humans are involved unwittingly. When humans visit the island, they don’t realize they are bringing along a stowaway. Mosquitoes. The oft-maligned disease ridden scourge of the world.
A study, co-authored by Leeds University, the Zoological Society of London, the University of Guayaquil, the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation, was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, and found that the southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, was hitching rides on planes from the South American, and island-hopping on tourist boats between the different Galapagos Islands.
Mosquitoes are a well known carrier of disease. Galapagos species threatened by diseases such as avian malaria or West Nile include the islands’ whose-who, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions and finches.
Now, the mosquitoes are breeding, and with tourism increasing rapidly, the future of Galapagos hangs on the ability of the Ecuadorian government to maintain protection for it’s islands inhabitants. Let’s get the word out, just make sure that they are keeping an eye on this problem.
Source: Discovery News
Image Credit: Daniel Hohler