Scientists have discovered a largely untouched coral reef off the Galápagos Islands. The reef stretches at a depth of 400 to 600 meters over the crest of a sunken volcano and is several kilometers long, the Charles Darwin Foundation said on Monday (local time). Researchers from Ecuador, the US and the UK found the unique ecosystem during a submarine dive in the middle of the archipelago during the Galápagos Deep 2023 expedition.

“What’s fascinating about this reef is that it’s very old and essentially untouched, unlike reefs in many other parts of the world’s oceans,” said Stuart Banks of the Charles Darwin Foundation. “It can also help us reconstruct past marine ecosystems to understand climate change today.” So far, the Wellington Reef in the north of the archipelago was considered one of the few coral reefs off the Galápagos Islands that had survived the El Niño climate phenomenon in the early 1980s.

Unusual number of living corals

Typically, coral reefs in the deep sea have only 10 to 20 percent live coral. “The reef that we found has 50 to 60 percent live coral in many areas, which is really very rare,” said Michelle Taylor of the University of Essex. “It’s pristine and teeming with life – pink squid, bat crabs, crayfish and a variety of deep sea fish, sharks and rays.”

The Galápagos Islands belong to Ecuador and are located around 1000 kilometers west of the South American coast in the Pacific. The archipelago has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978 because of its special flora and fauna. Species found only there include marine iguanas, land iguanas and Galápagos finches. In 1835 Charles Darwin visited the islands. His theory of the origin of species received a lot of food for thought there.