Great Canadian Parks / British Columbia

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The Parks / British Columbia / Gwaii Haanas National Park

The Queen Charlotte Islands may have been a refuge for a number of species during the last period of glaciation; however, it is their subsequent isolation that helps explain why so many species have evolved differently here than on the mainland. At least 39 distinct subspecies of plants and animals in the archipelago, including seven mammals, three birds and fifteen species of the stickleback fish are found nowhere else in the world, The Haida Gwaii Black bear is a prime example of evolution to adapt to a particular environment. With limited alpine habitat available, the Haida Gwaii bear has developed exceptionally strong jaws in order to take advantage of the abundance of hard shelled sea creatures available. Over thousands of years, the bears with superior crushing ability would be the strongest and therefore most likely to reproduce. As a result of natural selection, on these islands are found the largest black bears in North America.

The subspecies of pine marten and deer mouse are also larger than their mainland counterparts and a different kind of deer mouse can be found on almost every island. The stickleback fish have become so specialized, that every lake has evolved its own variety of stickleback - different in body size, pigmentation and type of armament in response to the unique circumstances of predation.

Endemic species in the bird family include a small saw-whet owl and unique forms of Steller's Jay and Hairy woodpecker. In vegetation, there are species of moss, a liverwort and six species of flowering plants. There are also ‘disjunct’ species, plants that are not unique to the Queen Charlottes, but are found only a few other places, many thousands of kilometres away.


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