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Ecuador’s environment ministry says the collapse was the result of natural erosion.

Darwin’s Arch, a famed natural rock formation in the Galapagos Islands, has collapsed into the sea as a result of erosion, Ecuadorean environmental officials said.

Photographs posted on social media by Ecuador’s Environment Ministry showed rubble from the top of the arch had crumbled into the ocean with the two supporting columns still standing.

“We report that the iconic Arc of Darwin collapsed,” the ministry wrote in Spanish on its Facebook page on Tuesday.

The 43-metre (141-feet) high rock formation, named for British naturalist Charles Darwin, stands at the northernmost tip of the Galapagos Islands and is a popular spot for scuba divers.

Once a part of nearby Darwin’s Island, the arch is famed for the variety of its underwater life, including schools of hammerhead sharks.

“Obviously, all the people from the Galapagos felt nostalgic because it’s something we’re familiar with since childhood, and to know that it has changed was a bit of a shock,” said Washington Tapia, the director of conservation at Galapagos Conservancy. “However, from a scientific point of view, it’s part of the natural process. The fall is surely due to exogenous processes such as weathering and erosion which are things that normally happen on our planet.”

The Galapagos is a remote volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles (965 kilometres) west of Ecuador and home to unique flora and fauna that inspired British naturalist Charles Darwin’s theory on evolution.

The 234 islands, inlets and rocks are part of a biosphere reserve and a World Heritage site. Four of them are home to some 30,000 people.

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