The Galapagos are a very secluded group of islands. There are numerous rare inhabitants that live and prosper on the islands; they are the home of new animal species, never seen or heard of before (until 1535). These islands are what gave birth to the discussion of evolution. The coordinates on the Pacific Ocean are Latitude 0° and Longitude 91°; they are located 600 miles away from the closest mainland (Ecuador) and have been part of Ecuador since the 1870’s. There are fifteen islands in the group, and nineteen volcanoes, which created the islands, the first one over 4 million years ago. These islands play a big part in human history and the study of life.
The man who discovered these islands was Fray Tomas De Berlanga. Sent on a mission from King Charles V to report on the anarchic Peru situation. It was March 10, 1535 that his ship officially discovered the Galapagos Islands. It was an accident, he was drifting with the current since there was no wind and soon enough he happened upon the fifteen islands. Which over time developed the name enchanted islands. At the time, the Latitude and Longitude of the islands were not easy to determine, so the islands were really hard to find. Even though Fray Tomas discovered them, Charles Darwin founder of the Theory of Evolution made them famous. In 1832 the islands were officially claimed part of Ecuador, which now supplies them with resources. In the beginning the islands had no indigenous people; no one had lived there except for the animals. Since then, the population of the Galapagos has tripled in the last 20 years, now there are over 35,000 people spread throughout the four main islands, (one of the excursion guides said that 220,000 tourists visited the islands in 2014). The Galapagos are not a largely populated group of islands compared to Venice Beach in California where on a beautiful Sunday, one million people flood the beaches from outlying areas of Los Angeles.
There are numerous amounts of animals spread throughout all the islands. The most famous animals that live there are the Marine Iguanas, Tortoises, Galapagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants, Blue Footed Boobies and Darwin’s thirteen finches. The only way these creatures could have found their way to the Galapagos would have been by bird, in a bird, on a bird, by the current on a flotation device, by swimming or by adapting/evolving. Even after finding the Galapagos the various species had to find a source of food not already being consumed, then find a mate to keep the species going. It is very challenging to survive in a new environment!
Although there are lots of animals on the island, I want to talk about a certain three: Blue-footed Boobies, Darwin’s Finches, and Marine Iguanas. The reason the Blue-Footed Boobie is called boobie is due to the Spanish name for stupid = bobo. These birds like most birds love to eat fish and will dive meters out of the sky to catch one…too bad they do the same for fishing lures as we snagged a brown boobie which sadly drowned on our lure about 1,000 miles away from the islands. They also like to live in colonies among the shore next to the ocean, and they only live to the age of about 20. Despite the birds’ stupidity, it is still one of my favorite animals living on the islands. On the island you might be able to find the blue -footed boobie waddle like penguins trying to impress the females in their mating dance trying to show off their blue feet. If the female is fond of the male’s dance she will follow along behind him imitating his little dance. The dance itself is rather silly.
The Galapagos Islands are home to Darwin’s famous 13 finches, which he discovered in 1835. According to Darwin, the first island that the Mother of all Galapagos finches arrived on was San Cristobal, and over time the finches migrated to the other islands. As the population of the finches grew on the islands and resources became scarce, adaptations started to occur. To the untrained eye, the finches look very similar. They all mostly have the same color, brown green or black, and pretty much have the regular sizes: small, medium and large, but if you take a closer look, you might be able to tell that the beaks on each variety of bird have slight differences.The reason for this is different varieties of food require different bills. So over time, Darwin speculated that the first finches that colonized on San Cristobal, eventually adapted and their bills modified for specific eating functions. Darwin felt the species evolved over time due to natural selection in newborns. Newborns that had the ability to eat different varieties of food due to slight changes in thickness or length or shape of the beak enabled them to survive and reproduce. That is how the theory of evolution came to be.
Galapagos Marine Iguanas are the only iguanas known to man that can swim in the ocean; they only live on these islands. Their main diet is algae, which they dive down into the ocean blue to eat. During the day, you can find the iguanas lying everywhere, warming themselves and trying to relieve their lungs of salt water so they can go back into the ocean and get something more to eat. When walking nearby one, it’s important to be aware for the occasional salty snott ball that they blow out of their noses. These reptiles have many interesting features. One very noticeable feature is their spiny-like mohawk that runs all the way from the top of their head to the end of their tail. When you look at them, you might think they are the next step down from a dragon; they have long claws, black skin, spikey mohawks, and they spit water instead of fire from their noses. They are the most interesting animals on the islands!
We got a chance to visit Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos. It was really cool to see all the unusual creatures that live there in the water and on the land. I was so excited to see in person the Marine Iguanas and the Blue-Footed Boobies. We also got a chance to explore Sierra Negra Volcan, which has the second largest crater in the world. I thought the sulfer holes were colorful and interesting as everything else on the lava fields was black. Most of all, the snorkeling was extraordinary; I loved seeing a 4.5 foot white tipped shark sleeping in a water cave, and swimming next to humungous green sea turtles. I had a great time on the island of Isabela.