Situated around 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the deep Pacific Ocean, it’s little surprise that the Galapagos Islands remained undiscovered and untouched by man until 1535. And even then the discovery was only by chance. This isolation meant that the plant and animal life on the islands developed, or evolved as Charles Darwin quite rightly pointed out, in an incredible and unique way. It was Darwin’s observations of the islands wildlife that led to his theories of natural selection and the magnum opus On the Origin of Species in 1859.
However, despite this famous and esteemed position in the natural world, there are still some mysteries surrounding the Galapagos that need solving. First and foremost is how the animal life managed to arrive here in the first instance. Of all the Galapagos Islands vacation facts that you can discover on your trip, this is amongst the most interesting.
Five to ten million years ago, the tops of the underwater volcanoes that form the archipelago began to poke their heads above the surface. Initially, they were completely devoid of both plant and animal life, as you might expect. So all life must have arrived from some kind of long-distance dispersal. It’s this that explains why there are many species of reptile but few amphibians, and why birds fill the skies but there are virtually no mammal species. The animals and plants arrived in one of two ways.
The descendants of most Galapagos animals that are good swimmers, including penguins, turtles, and sea lions, must have swum. Some of the mammal species, such as mice and rats could have arrived on rafts or mats of vegetation floating out into the ocean. Of course, most of these animals would have perished but it would have only required a few to arrive successfully to breed. However, they might also have arrived with some of the first human visitors.
Some of the coastal plant life, such as mangrove and saltbushes, have seeds that are salt tolerant and could have floated to the islands.
Wind is thought to have been instrumental in carrying many plant forms to the island. This includes ferns, mosses, and lichens. Plants with light seeds, such as the dandelion, are found in abundance on the islands. Small insects and even snails could also have arrived on the wind.
Of course, seabirds are accustomed to long-distance flight and could easily have made the journey, settling on the islands where there were no natural predators.
On a Galapagos Islands vacation, you can discover the huge variety of plant and animal species that found its way here over hundreds of thousands of years, and how it developed in different ways to adapt to its surroundings. Enjoy Galapagos custom vacations and solve the mystery for yourself.
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