Galapagos Islands

Charles Darwin & The Galapagos Islands

In 1831 Charles Darwin, fascinated by the diversity of life on earth, embarked on the HMS Beagle expedition to map the coasts of South America. Even thought his tour of the world lasted five years, it was those two weeks Darwin dedicated to exploring the Galapagos Islands that ended up being fundamental for him to set foundations of a very controversial theory. Read on to get a better understanding of his journey, theories and discoveries at the Galapagos.

The Origin of Species

Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos Islands had an important impact on his Theory of Natural Selection. While unmotivated and frustrated, Charles Darwin wrote The Beagle’s Journey, a book about his journey around the world.

After inspecting the coasts of South America, he made a stop in the Galapagos Islands. There he observed that the native species were similar from island to island, but perfectly adapted to their environments, which led him to study their genetic characteristics.

Years later, he finally consolidated all his observations in his famous book “The Origin of Species”, that drastically and controversially altering the scientific point of view about the biological origins of life.

Natural Selection

Charles Darwin, proposed the theory of  evolution by natural selection. Darwin defined evolution as “offspring with modification,” the idea that species change over time, give rise to new species, and share a common ancestor.

Darwin’s proposed mechanism for evolution is the natural selection. He stated that resources in nature are limited, so organisms “evolve” by inheriting traits that favor survival and reproduction and discarding those that do not. In other words, natural selection causes populations to adapt or become increasingly adapted to their environment over time.

From the time he published his book to the present day, what Darwin said remains a theory under discussion.

Finches, Lizards and Turtles

During his time in the galapagos, Darwin studied finches, lizards and turtles, among others. When Darwin studied finches, a type of bird that is endemic to the Galapagos, he observed that each animal was well adapted to its particular environment. The shape of the beaks of the finches on each island matched well with the shape of the seeds of their respective island but not with those of the others. For example, a larger, stronger bill was needed to open large seeds on an island and a small bill to eat seeds from a different island. On each island, the finches would gradually adapt to local conditions. This was the species that  Darwin choose as the key of his theory.

On the other hand, large lizards, like finches, differed in behaviour and appearance between islands. Members of a  lizard species spent most of their time in the ocean swimming and searching for seaweed while. On the other hand, there are  lizard species taht lived on land and ate cactus. Darwin wondered why there were two species of lizards in the same group of islands so different to one another.

Darwin also observed giant tortoises in the Galapagos. These turtles were so large that two persons are needed to ride them. Darwin noticed that the different species of turtles lived on islands with different environments. And he realized that the turtles had characteristics that allowed them to live in their respective habitats. For example, turtles that ate plants close to the ground had rounded shells and shorter necks. Turtles on islands with tall shrubs had higher necks and shells that curved upward, allowing them to stretch their necks. Darwin began formulating hypotheses about organisms developing characteristics over time because of the characteristics of their environment.

Charles Darwin Science Station

On the island of Santa Cruz, in Puerto Ayora, the Charles Darwin scientific station has been dedicated since 1964 to the study and preservation of native flora and fauna, especially of the giant tortoises. This centre is one of the most outstanding in world scientific research. Learn more about best place to visit in Galapagos here.

A Controversial Theory

The theory that made Darwin recognized is also the most controversial one. There were not many people who accepted the theory  because there was still not enough evidence in favor. Today, there are those who support and impart Darwin’s theories and those who go against them.

However, one thing everyone agrees on is that the Galapagos Islands are home to unique species worth knowing. It also has beautiful landscapes, and a bunch of exciting activities to do. Live a once in a lifetime experience and let Ikala Hotel host you! We offer beautiful eco friendly facilities along with high quality service. Learn more about our Hotel here.