The relationship between Darwin and the Galapagos Islands goes back many, many decades. While Darwin is one of the most highly decorated and respected scientists in history, the Galapagos Islands is one of the most admired regions on the planet. Located off the coast of Ecuador, this beautiful set of islands is home to unique flora and fauna. As a result, it’s the dream destination for many holiday-goers each year.
As well as 13 main islands, the archipelago also has dozens of smaller pieces of land. Most visitors are amazed as they see sea lions, iguanas, giant tortoises, sharks, fur seals, rays, and plenty of other stunning creatures. However, it was the world of birds that Darwin influenced.
Darwin’s Five Weeks on the Galapagos Islands
When Charles Darwin decided to travel the world aboard HMS Beagle, he was just 26 years of age. During these five years, he came across the Galapagos Islands archipelago and ended up spending five weeks exploring the beautiful location.
The year was 1835, and Darwin was about to change the world forever. Overall, he discovered around 18 new finches, and they now make up a group called Darwin’s finches. Not only were the Galapagos Islands home to unique birds, but Darwin realized that they seemed to differ from one island to the next.
Why was this so important? Because the discovery of the finches contributed to Darwin’s thoughts on evolution and natural selection. It’s thought that Darwin initially noted the difference in the beaks of the finches. With different species having different types of beaks, it meant that they consumed different foods. Therefore, evolution ensured that they had the right beak for the food available in their location.
As Darwin explored the many different islands, he realized that each island had the same animals but slightly different species. Although examples of this are present all over the world, it’s perhaps clearest on the Galapagos Islands. As he moved from one island to the next, each animal was essentially the same except for a few small changes. Of course, these changes allowed the species to thrive on its own island.
Eventually, Darwin would come to rely heavily on his time on the Galapagos Islands when releasing On The Origin of Species, the famous observations that are still admired and read the world over today. Released in 1859, many modern scientists believe this single document to be the foundation for evolutionary biology.
Using the finches and other birds on the Galapagos Islands as a basis, Darwin theorized that animals evolve over many years. As generations pass, only the strongest survive – a theory we now know as natural selection. While the weakest die, the strongest evolve to survive in their surroundings, and this is what happened with the birds on the different islands.
Aside from the many scientific breakthroughs, one of the main reasons why the book was so successful was that it was written for the layperson. Rather than writing for fellow scientists, Darwin wanted his theories and findings to be understood by the masses. For this reason, non-specialist readers can pick up the book today and understand Darwin’s theories.
If you want to see the diverse Darwin’s finches, they’re still accessible on the Galapagos Islands today. Consider a Galapagos boat tour where you’ll notice the huge differences in the beaks from one to another – you’ll also try not to let your emotions overwhelm you on this stunning set of islands as you also take in the penguins, sea lions, and giant tortoises on the trip of a lifetime.
Thanks For Reading
More Read On Forbes Magazine