The Galapagos Islands are a biodiversity hotspot, inspiring Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution nearly two centuries ago. They are a living museum and showcase of natural selection in action. The archipelago is home to a stunning array of plants and animals that exist nowhere else in the world. From the jagged, jet-black lava fields of Santiago Island to the powdery-soft beaches on Mosquera Island, every landscape offers a story of survival and adaptation.
The most famous Galapagos animal is perhaps the tortoise that captivated the world with its story of survival and endurance. Lonesome George, the last member of his species, died some five years ago. Despite efforts to breed him with similar tortoises, it was impossible for him to produce offspring and his species is now extinct.
Another exemplary species is the endemic marine iguana (Iguana galapagosensis). The ancestors of these creatures presumably arrived in the Galapagos about 10 to 15 million years ago from South America on vegetation rafts. They quickly discovered that they could only forage on land during low tide for a very limited amount of time per day, so they chose to concentrate at sites where food was abundant. Males occupied the highest head positions and competed with each other to display their dominance by loudly “groaning” to attract females.
These aquatic mammals (cetaceans) have little, if any, hair and instead rely on a thick layer of fat to keep them warm in cold water and protect them from shark predators. They are also able to hunt at night, when their prey is most active.