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The Philippines: The center of marine life in the universe: part 2

  
  
  
  
  

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This is the second installment of a three part blog edited from an article which appeared in the Daily Tribune on September 29, 2011 and was written by Deni Rose Afinidad. The first part of this blog was posted on  November 18. The first blog outlined the reasons Dr. Carpenter has for saying that The Philippines has become the heart of marine life on the planet. Here are the detailed explanations for his hypothesis.

Reason 1 – Most Diversity of Habitats

The Philippines has more diversity of habitats (sea grass, soft sediments, corals, etc.) than anywhere else on Earth. It also has more coastlines per unit area than any tropical place in the globe.

 Latitudinal diversity is also the Philippines’ edge over Indonesia. The Philippines is in different latitudes so it has tropical and subtropical species, unlike Indonesia, which is only tropical.

Reason 2 – Area of Concentration for Different Species

The country is an area of concentration because of geology or ocean patterns. For this, Carpenter and team looked at the genetics of species. “The genetics of populations are like fingerprints that let us track populations in time and space. How these species are separated can tell us about the species’ evolution,” he explained.

According to his study, during the Ice Age, the whole world was enveloped in ice except the Coral Triangle, and the presence of more land protected and enabled the species here to develop and evolve.

Around 54 million years ago, Manila and the rest of Luzon were underwater, located near where Australia is, he said. Mindanao, Palawan and Visayas were where Papua New Guinea is. But because of plate tectonic movements, the Philippines has become more integrated than any archipelago in the planet. The main islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao came together, enabling the Philippines to develop a diversified geology, and such variety made it an area of accumulation for different species.

Since Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao came from different parts of the world, they contain different species, but the genetic code of species indicates they come from the same group. “The genetic makeup of species matches the Philippines’ fingerprint 10 million years ago. If species grew up from different places, then they will have a different genetic makeup,” expounded Carpenter.

There had only been a genetic break or separation of species because of strong currents in the country, and different separation of species in the country means there is a lot of population breaks in the country, which is something unique to the Philippines, he asserted. In Indonesia, there are only two population breaks, but in the Philippines there are five, indicating that species are still evolving in the country.

Reason 3 – The Philippines is the Center of Origin

Dr. Carpenter theorizes that the country is a center of origin — the Philippines might be where species originated and are evolving.

“There is a genetic signature that species are congregating in the Philippines because it is probably their origin or coherent with their genetic makeup,” he remarked. A species of sardine, for example, has been found to be also existent in the Philippines when it has been previously listed as emanating from China.

“Other species originate from the Philippines but are being washed to Indonesia and other places, which is why there is also a concentration of species there,” Carpenter justified.

There is a unique bio-geology here in the Philippines that took millions of years to create, so if we destroy it, we are interrupting a process benefited by the whole world.”

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