Island of treasure

Published: Tuesday 15 September 1998

NAVASSA Island, one of the most isolated places off the coast of Haiti, have been found with more than 800 species of plants and animals. The tip of a sub-merged mountain, Navassa is located about 65 km west of Haiti and nearly 320 km from the mainland of the us.

Many of these species are believed to exist nowhere else in the world. Leaders of the research team say that nearly 250 species found here are entirely new to science. They say that coral reefs on this island offer a glimpse of what the Caribbean may have looked like before Columbus.

"The island is very rich of scor-pions," notes Michael Smith, one of the leaders of the team. Scientists found native plants and animals that include unique species of lizards, wingless crickets and other creatures that evolved during ages of isolation. Divers who surveyed the island's reefs found a "spectacular" richness of creatures and hues, the researchers say. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, reefs have been blighted by pollution and disease or damaged by careless divers and boaters.

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