Microbiological studies detect Mycoplasma in Galapagos sea lions

The main objective of this work, carried out in coordination with the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), was to report for the first time the presence of Mycoplasma spp. in Galapagos sea lions. Mycoplasma spp is a bacterium that has been reported as a guest in the respiratory tract of other Otharids (family of pinniped mammals) and that has also been reported as a pollutant and exacerbator of respiratory infections.

This research began in 2018 in Santa Cruz during the Galapagos sea lion breeding season. In Galapagos this species lives very closely with domestic animals such as dogs and cats.

Sarzosa, a wildlife researcher and veterinarian, observed that several sea lions had a runny nose, respiratory distress and were in poor body condition, which raised the need to investigate a little more to determine the causes of these symptoms.

In order to investigate further, personnel from both the GSC and the GNPD captured 18 sea lions, all of which had blood taken for serology and nasal discharge for culture and PCR testing.

Later, Sarzosa and the team of researchers analyzed the samples in search of 15 respiratory pathogens that generally affect dogs, cats and also sea lions.

Mycoplasma spp. was the only pathogen identified.

According to Sarzosa, “identifying Mycoplasma spp. in the Galapagos sea lions allows us to increase the baseline of pathogens present in this species.” This finding will be of great importance for future research, to understand the role of this bacterium in the Galapagos sea lions.

This work highlights the need to promote and deepen studies to determine different factors that may affect the life of the species that inhabit the Galapagos Islands.

“As a wildlife veterinarian, it is always very flattering to be able to contribute to the health care of Galapagos animals, since we are helping the conservation of unique species in the world,” said Sarzosa.



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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!