June 2009 Archives

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According to the Lonely Planet guide, "Among the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles are some of the most beautiful island getaways in the Indian Ocean, or indeed the world. Here you can find the lush tropical paradise you may have seen in seductive advertisements." The group of islands around Mahe (home of the international airport and the capital city of Victoria) are made of granite while the remaining islands are coralline atolls. The Seychelles lie 1,600 kilometers off of East Africa, its nearest neighbor. As a result of this isolation the Seychelles are rich in rare plants which flourish nowhere else on the planet. Perhaps the most famous of these is the coco de mer, the world's largest coconut weighing as much as 20 kg. In addition to their prodigious size the coco de mer is famous for its rather erotic shape (pictured right). I will let readers' imaginations run wild on this but if you want to see this coconut in person head for the beautiful Vallee de Mai on the island of Praslin. I recently led a Seacology group to visit the Seychelles and some of us are still blushing after seeing these rather evocative coconuts. The Seychelles visitors bureau knows a good thing when it sees one and the coco de mer not only appears on posters and brochures everywhere but the Seychelles official passport stamp is in the shape of this naughty coconut.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that, as far as conserving biodiversity goes, Seacology is on the right track. The species richness on islands is 8 to 9 times greater than that of mainland environments according to this study performed by Holger Kreft and colleagues at the University of Bonn, UC San Diego and the University of Applied Sciences Eberswalde. To read more about this fascinating topic please see the associated article, Islands top a global list of places to protect, as well as the actual study, A global assessment of endemism and species richness across island and mainland regions.