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Tonga Islands South Pacific Oceans
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Tonga Islands, South Pacific Oceans

April 11, 2013
The islands depicted in this image belong to the Kingdom of Tonga, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean. These tropical islands are just South of Samoa, West of Australia, and North of New Zealand. There are at least 169 islands in the chain, although many more are currently underwater. Many of the islands are actually volcanoes strung along what is called a subduction zone, where two plates (the Indo-Australian and Pacific) are colliding. The denser oceanic plate is being pushed under the lighter continental plate and is actually sinking into the mantle, the area in between the Earth´s crust and core. The Tonga Islands are a popular tourist destination, known for their white sand beaches, coral reefs, and humpback whales. The islands are also home to several endemics, or species only found locally, as well as two threatened bird species. Like many islands, the biodiversity of the Tongas are under pressure from introduced species, such as rats. Credit: Jeff Schmaltz