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Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Quizzes
Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Image Quiz #5
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(See quiz questions or a list of previous quizzes.)

Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Image Quiz #5
12/12/2001

The islands are the Galapagos, situated in the Pacific Ocean roughly 1000 kilometers west of mainland Ecuador. The image is oriented with north toward the bottom and was acquired during Terra orbit 9878. Answers to the TRUE/FALSE questions are as follows:

1. There are no endemic species of cactus on any of the islands.

Answer: FALSE
Endemic genera of cacti include Brachycereus and Jasminocereus, the lava and candelabra cactus, respectively.

2. Flamingos, whose diets include crustaceans, tiny fish, and algae, can be found wading in brackish lagoons.

Answer: TRUE
Greater flamingos are primarily seen on Floreana and other southern islands.

3. A change in ocean temperature associated with an episodic disruption in atmospheric circulation led to a precipitous decline in the local penguin population.

Answer: TRUE
The Galapagos penguin population declined alarmingly during 1972 and 1998, when nutrients and fish were less abundant due to warmer surface waters associated with an El Niño event.

4. Discovery of the islands is generally attributed to a 16th century Spanish missionary whose vessel veered off its intended course.

Answer: TRUE
The islands were officially discovered in 1535 by the Spanish missionary Fray Tomas de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama. His ship veered off course while on a journey from Panama to what is now Peru.

5. A recurring and dramatic geological event took place on the westernmost island in 1988, 1991 and 1995, causing injury or death to over 2,000 people.

Answer: FALSE
The volcano of the westernmost island of Fernandina erupted 1988, 1991 and 1995, but there are no permanent human settlements on this island.

6. Several plant species are endangered due to decimation by goats and competition with non-native vegetation.

Answer: TRUE
Invasive plants such as quinine and guava trees, and invasive animals such as goats, feral cattle, and the cottony cushion scale insect are contributing to the endangered status of native plant species such as the endemic daisy tree and the Floreana flax.

7. Within the archipelago there are at least half a dozen freshwater lakes with diameters exceeding 250 meters.

Answer: FALSE
El Junco Lake on San Cristobal island (at 270 meters in diameter) is the only large freshwater lake in the Galapagos archipelago.

8. A particular endangered animal sub-species is survived by a single male, and attempts at breeding have so far proved unsuccessful.

Answer: TRUE
The Pinta island subspecies of Galapagos Giant Tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni) are survived by a single male named "Lonesome George". Attempts to mate Lonesome George with female tortoises of the closest subspecies have not been successful.

9. Chapter 13 of a book written in the mid-nineteenth century by a native of Shrewsbury, England is primarily concerned with the islands of this archipelago.

Answer: FALSE
Naturalist Charles Darwin (a native of Shrewsbury, England) recounted his explorations in "Voyage of the Beagle", but it is Chapter 17 of this book that focuses on the Galapagos. (Note: After publishing this quiz it was discovered that Chapter 13 of the 6th edition of Darwin's "Origin of Species" also briefly discusses the Galapagos, so TRUE is also accepted.)


64 people from all over the world sent in responses before the deadline. 57 people correctly identified the scene as the Galapagos. Individuals who answered all nine questions correctly are listed below. The prize winners are indicated by asterisks.

  1. Gordon Stewart, Pasadena, CA, USA*
  2. Tim Brooks, San Diego, CA, USA*
  3. Janet R. Wendorf, El Cerrito, CA, USA*
  4. Bob Vargo, Pasadena, CA, USA
  5. Daniel M. Palacios, Corvallis, OR, USA
  6. Þorkell Sigvaldason. Reykjavik, Iceland
  7. Gordon Mills, Sydney, Australia
  8. Elke Delvoye, Ghent, Belgium
  9. Joost Vandenabeele, Brussels, Belgium
10. Christian Gfeller, Zürich, Switzerland
11. Steven R. Christensen, Madison, WI, USA
12. Frans van der Kroef, Gorinchem, The Netherlands
13. Arne Snevoll, Long Beach, CA, USA

Credit: Image credit: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team.

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