The Galapagos Islands

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  • Topic: Charles Darwin, Galápagos Islands, Darwin's finches
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The Galapagos Islands

Brandy Nicole Welch

SCI 230
Instructor Amy Hurst
July 25, 2009

‘Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact – that mystery of mysteries – the first appearance of new beings on this earth’ was the description Charles Darwin gave when describing his experience on the Galapagos Islands during his five year expedition on board the Beagle. (Levy, 2007) Many may ask ‘what are the Galapagos Islands, and why are so many trying to save them?’ The Galapagos Islands are also called the Islas Incantadas. They are located about 600 miles west of Ecuador and are straddling the equator. The Galapagos has a total land area of 7,882 square kilometers which consist of 13 major islands, six small islands and many islets and rocks. Each of the islands included in the archipelago are of volcanic origin. Two of the islands, Fernandina and Isabela, are still both sites of frequent eruptive activity. (Finch, n.d.)

Although Charles Darwin was not the founder of the Galapagos Islands, he is considered “the most celebrated visitor to Galapagos”. He arrived on board the HMS Beagle in 1835 on his way home after charting the coasts of South America from the Rio Plata round to Chiloe in Southern Chile. It was on the Galapagos that Darwin stumbled upon many diverse life forms. (Finch, n.d.)

The beauty and uniqueness Charles Darwin recognized on the Galapagos Islands are in danger of extinction by human interaction. More than 100,000 people travel to the Galapagos a year to tour the multiple sites on the islands. The introductions of both domestic and non-domestic animals to the islands threaten the native creatures. In an effort to preserve the creatures and plant life on the islands there are multiple conservation programs currently in place to minimize the effects of human interaction on the Galapagos. (Finch, n.d.)

There are multiple diversities of life forms found on the Galapagos Islands. The finches are one of the first life forms Darwin discusses in his diary of the voyage on the HMS Beagle. There are 14 different species of finches found on the Galapagos Islands. (Levy, 2007) According to Darwin before arriving on the islands he only knew of one species of finches which could be found on the mainland of South America approximately 600 miles away. Each species of finch found on the Galapagos differs in beak size and shape due to the different diets of each one. (Anthro, 2009)

Another life form in danger of extinction is the Galapagos Tortoise. Like his predecessors, Darwin and the crew of the HMS Beagle saw the tortoises as a food source and fifty or more of them were captured on the islands. They were all eaten on the journey home and none of the shells were preserved for science. (Galapagos, 2008) Today, many of the domestic animals brought to the islands are hindering the natural breeding of the Galapagos Tortoise by devouring the tortoises’ eggs and young before they are able to reach the safety of the water. [pic] [pic]Lonesome George, one of the tortoises in the nature preserve, was found in 1971 on the island of Pinta and is the first tortoise recorded on the island since 1906. [pic] [pic] One-third of the 560 native species of plants found on the Galapagos Islands are endemic to the islands. (Galapagos, 2008) Although many plants have difficulties surviving not only the voyage to different islands but also the adaptation of the new environments, the plant life found among the Galapagos seem to have adapted just as well as Darwin’s finches. (Galapagos, 2008) The Galapagos Islands have its own species of cotton, pepper, guava, passion flower and tomato. And many of the other floras differ greatly from others found elsewhere in the world. The Galapagos tortoises have had a hand in disbursing the different species of flora over the multiple islands of the Galapagos. The plant life is eaten by the tortoises and disbursed over the islands through...
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