The Galapagos Islands are a treasure trove of endemic species. It’s a place renowned for its unique flora and fauna, with some of the best Galapagos Islands to visit being home to some of the world’s most charismatic and bizarre creatures.
It was this scale and variety of endemic species that led Charles Darwin to devise his inspired theory of the Survival of the Fittest, which went on to become the foundation stone for evolution. This is one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time, and it was all inspired by this remote island archipelago way out in the Pacific.
Perhaps one the islands’ most famous inhabitants are the various tortoise species unique to each island environment. Subtle differences in shell shape and diet was a tell-tale sign that evolutionary development had been happening in different ways according to the environment. The tortoises on Isabella were different, with each island home to a new and separate species. However, it was estimated that at some point in time there were 250,000 tortoises but numbers these days are as low as 15,000.
Another of the islands’ most famous inhabitants is the marine iguana. These extraordinary creatures are the only marine lizards on earth. Because of the scarcity of the vegetation on the land, the animals had to adapt their behavior and eat seaweed. This meant they had to develop special glands to remove excess salt from their systems, expelling it through the nostrils. Seeing the marine iguanas wading around in the surf makes Fernandina and Santa Cruz Island some of the best Galapagos Islands to visit.
One of the most unusual of the endemic species, this is the only cormorant species in the world that has lost the ability to fly. However, it more than makes up for this by having developed an incredible knack for swimming and diving. Seeing one plunge into the water makes you realize that not all birds are destined to fly through the skies. Check out the Galapagos map to see where you can find them.
Like the famous turtles, there are various finch species on the islands, each adapted to live in a very specific environment. It was the finches that initially caught the eye of Darwin who long puzzled over why each species appeared so different despite living only a few miles apart. Today, most of these species can still only be found on their individual islands.
It’s hard to pick the best Galapagos Islands to visit because each one seems to have its own endemic species with their own appeal. The best thing to do is to book a cruise and explore as much of the archipelago as possible.
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