The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez, Sea of Cortés or Vermilion Sea) is a body of water that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It is bordered by the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, and Sinaloa with a coastline of approximately 4,000 kilometres. Rivers which flow into the Gulf of California include the Colorado, Fuerte, Mayo, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Yaqui. The gulf's surface area is about 160,000 km2.
The Gulf is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet, and is home to more than 5,000 species of micro-invertebrates. Home to over a million people, Baja California is one of the longest peninsulas in the world, second only to the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. The Gulf of California is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The International Hydrographic Organization defines the southern limit of the Gulf of California as: "A line joining Piastla Point (23°38'N) in Mexico, and the southern extreme of Lower California". The Gulf of California is 1,126 kilometres long and 48-241 kilometres wide, with an area of 177,000 km2, a mean depth of 818 metres, and a volume of 145,000 km3. The Gulf of California includes three faunal regions: the Northern Gulf of California, the Central Gulf of California and the Southern Gulf of California.
One recognized transition zone is termed the Southwestern Baja California Peninsula. Transition zones exist between faunal regions, and they usually vary for each individual species. (Faunal regions are distinguishable based on the specific types of animals found there).
The Gulf of California contains 37 islands - the two largest being Isla Ángel de la Guarda and Tiburón Island. Most of the islands are found on the peninsular side of the gulf. In fact, many of the islands of the Sea of Cortez are the result of volcanic explosions that occurred during the early history of Baja California. The islands of Islas Marías, Islas San Francisco, and Isla Partida are thought to be the result of such explosions. The formations of the islands, however, are not dependent on each other. They were each formed as a result of an individual structural occurrence. Several islands, including Isla Coronados, are home to volcanoes.
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