Page last updated at 02:11 GMT, Monday, 8 February 2010

Galapagos fur seals head for Peru waters

By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

A colony of fur seals has moved 1,500km away from the Galapagos Islands, a Peru-based organisation which monitors the aquatic mammals has said.

The Organisation for Research and Conservation of Aquatic Animals says the fur seals have swum to northern Peru because of rising temperatures.

It is the first time fur seals have set up a colony away from the islands, Orca says.

Average sea temperatures off northern Peru have risen, monitors say.

Measurements from the Peruvian Geophysics Institute indicate the sea surface temperature in the northern Peruvian provinces of Piura and Tumbes have consistently risen from an average of 17C to 23C over the last 10 years.

The temperature is much closer to the sea temperature around the Galapagos Islands, which averages about 25C.

Now that the conditions of the sea around northern Peru are so similar to the Galapagos, they say, even more fur seals and other new marine species could start arriving.

The Galapagos Islands are located more than 900km west off continental Ecuador.

Ever since the English naturalist, Charles Darwin, first visited the islands more than 150 years ago, they have become known as a living museum of evolution.

Correction 8 February: An earlier version of this story had the species incorrectly as sea lion. The mammal in question is fur seal.

The measurements of average sea temperatures were taken by the Peruvian Geophysics Institute, and should not have been attributed to Orca as in the earlier version.

The earlier version had a reference to the temperature rise being caused by climate change. This has been removed as the relevant research is still in its early stages.

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