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Galapagos fur seals exploit warmer waters to establish colony off Peru

As suggested by their name, the Galapagos fur seals were once endemic to the Galapagos island chain off the coast of Ecuador. But in a warming world species are on the move, and the Galapagos fur seal is no exception. According to a recent story in Reuters the Galapagos fur seals have established what appears to be a permanent colony off the coast of Peru, 900 miles from their home.

Carlos Yaipen-Llanos, a marine biologist at the Orca research center in Peru, told Reuters that approximately 30 Galapagos fur seals have established a colony on Isla Foca. Researchers have evidence of the colony mating and breeding.

“The scientific importance of the Galapagos fur seals establishing a resident colony in Peru is that the animals have extended their range and found a new habitat. This is associated with warmer water temperatures,” he told Reuters.

Sea-surface temperatures around Isle Foca have risen over the last fifty years, nearing those of the warmer waters around the Galapagos.

However, until genetic evidence is provided some dispute the claim, arguing that the seals Yaipen-Llanos has found are not in fact Galapagos fur seals, but South American fur seals, already present in the region.

While Yaipen-Llanos is waiting for genetic results, he says that the two species are unique enough for him to tell the difference.

The Galapagos fur seal is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

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