THE OA­SIS OF MALPELO

Scuba Diving - - GEAR BAG -

Far­ther in­shore than the Costa Rica Dome or the Gala­pa­gos, Malpelo sits in rel­a­tively warm, nutrient-poor seas be­tween these two vast pro­duc­tive zones. Even tinier than Co­cos, at less than a mile long and a third of a mile wide, Malpelo is a mag­net to silky and ham­mer­head sharks. Only the is­land breaks the sur­face, but its sub­ma­rine ridge is ex­ten­sive. At a lit­tle more than 300 miles off­shore, Malpelo is close enough to the coast to ben­e­fit from up­wellings that run along the ridge with the Panama Cur­rent, en­rich­ing the seas for the first few months of the year, which bring the great­est num­bers of ham­mer­heads. The sea­sonal off­shore Panama Cur­rent, and its po­si­tion be­tween the two great sys­tems, al­lows Malpelo to act as a step­ping­stone, an oa­sis be­tween the great north­ern and south­ern ecosys­tems. A hand­ful of ham­mer­heads tagged at Malpelo early in the year have been seen just a few days later off the Gala­pa­gos, more than 600 miles away, and sev­eral mi­grated from Malpelo to Co­cos. Later in the year, the num­ber of res­i­dent ham­mer­heads at Malpelo drops, leav­ing the Dome and Gala­pa­gos sys­tems more iso­lated.

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