Jessica and students;
The Galápagos Islands sit at the equator and were formed by volcanic activity, which continues today on their western edge (particularly Fernandina). As such, these islands have never been connected to a continent and plants and animals that arrived here by floating, flying or riding with birds or on rafts have been isolated from the rest of the world. Because of this and also because of unique and challenging climatic conditions, a whole array of endemic species have evolved. Endemism is defined in our Galápagos guide (by Pierre Constant) as "an organism, species or group, living and evolving in a specific place, which is found no where else...".
Examples include: giant tortoises, flightless cormorants, "Darwin's" finches, Galápagos hawk, Galápagos shark, Galápagos martin, Galápagos rice bats, Galápagos penguin, Lava gull, marine iguanas, Opuntia cactus and dozens of other examples.
The Galápagos Islands were named for their most famous endemic residents, the giant tortoises, which are called galápago in Spanish. There are only 11 species remaining of the original 14, though one species has only one remaining member and will die out with him (Lonesome George). Each island and even each volcano on some islands (e.g. Isabela) have their own species which vary in size and morphology, particularly shell shape. They get to be enormous (250 kg) , though "Genesis" the first tortoise born at the breeding center in San Cristobal is about 10 inches long and he is already four years old.
Charles Darwin wasn't the first to describe the uniqueness of the Galápagos Islands but he is the one who made this place famous with the publication of his Origin of the Species in 1859, 24 years after visiting here as a naturalist aboard the Beagle. Finches (called Pinzones in Spanish) were his subjects, and 13 endemic species have been identified which evolved from the original species which migrated from the Caribbean by way of Cocos Island, Costa Rica.
Gnomad´s journey has included a visit to the Galápaguera Semi-Natural (a park and breeding center here on Isla San Cristobal) and a visit to the statue honoring Charles Darwin which overlooks the cove where Charles Darwin first went ashore off the HMS Beagle. His photos are attached.
Philip and Leslie with Jake (the cat) and Gnomad
Isla San Cristobal, Islas Galápagos, Ecuador