The Galapagos Islands make up an archipelago of 13 major islands and more than a hundred smaller islands that straddle the equator off the Ecuadorian coast. Galapago is an old Spanish word for tortoise.
The islands are home to unique and extraordinary animal species such as giant tortoises, iguanas, fur seals, sea lions, sharks, and rays. There are 26 species of incredibly beautiful native birds, 14 of which make up the group known as Darwin’s finches.
In addition, there are trees that have evolved from daisies, covered in colourful mosses and lichens. In the lowlands, there are many cacti that have adapted to the islands’ climate that is hot during the day and cooler at night.
During Charles Darwin’s nearly five-year circumnavigation of the globe aboard HMS Beagle at an age of 26 years, he spent five weeks on the Galapagos Islands in 1835.
On the islands, Charles Darwin discovered several species of finches. He found out that different species of finches varied from island to island. Besides elaborating his thoughts on natural selection, this also helped him in his investigation on the evolutionary changes of the finches.
Isabela, which is located on the western edge of the archipelago, is one of the youngest islands. The one million-year-old island was formed by the merger of six shield volcanoes: Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra, and Wolf. These volcanoes are still active. This makes the Galapagos Islands one of the most volcanically active places on planet Earth.
Charles Darwin realised that the different islands that make up the archipelago were home to similar but different species. However, the unique creatures were perfectly adapted to their environments. This led him to ponder the origin of the inhabitants of these islands.
In 1859, Darwin finally consolidated all of his observations into his famous book On The Origin of Species. His book altered the scientific view on the biological origins of life.
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