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Galapagos residents playing key role in scientific discoveries

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Quito, Feb 27 (EFE). The recent discovery of a rare fish species by residents of the Galapagos Islands marks the latest in a series of finds by inhabitants of the famed Ecuadorian archipelago, who are to be further encouraged in their efforts by a government-sponsored "Citizen Science" program.

Most of the finds have come from fishermen and guides, the head of the Galapagos National Park's Marine Spaces Monitoring area, Eduardo Espinoza, told Efe.

This recently discovered rare fish species, which had only been seen once before 10 years ago, lives at water depths ranging from 40-400 meters (131-1,311 feet).

Intrigued by its unusual flattish, wide head, rounded jaws and elongated body, fishermen took the specimen to the Galapagos National Park Directorate - known as DPGN and based on Santa Cruz Island - for scientific study.

Having received that specimen of fish from the Uranoscopidae family, the DPGN will conduct several studies and prepare a report detailing where the fish was caught, its habitat, diet and behavior, as well as its significance in maintaining the marine balance.

Espinoza hailed the role the islands' inhabitants play in shedding light on the Galapagos ecosystem, saying they are "privileged observers" who assist in the scientific research carried out by the DPNG and other organizations such as the Charles Darwin Research Station.

In that regard, the park plans to launch a so-called "Citizen Science" program that establishes protocols, procedures and other regulations governing the local population's participation in these types of discoveries.

According to Espinoza, the Galapagos marine reserve, one of the world's largest, still "has many enigmas to uncover" with the aid of the scientific community and the more than 20,000 inhabitants of the archipelago.

Located roughly 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) off the coast of continental Ecuador, the Galapagos archipelago comprises a marine and land reserve covering 132,000 sq. kilometers (50,965 sq. miles).

The islands, which were declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1978, were made famous by 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose observations of life on the islands contributed greatly to his theory of evolution and natural selection.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/130227/galapagos-residents-playing-key-role-scientific-discoveries