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Ecuador Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos islands EcuadorThe Galapagos Archipelago is a unique world heritage. Situated on the equator some 600 miles off the coast of South America, this remote volcanic archipelago remains much as it was millions of years ago. Over the course of centuries, animal and plant life from the Americas reached the islands and gradually evolved into new forms. Many of its species are found nowhere else on earth. Each of the archipelago's islands has its own character and unique qualities. For example, Santa Cruz Island supports one of the largest human populations of the five islands. Some 4,000 residents are distributed among the cattle communities in the lush highlands and the coastal town of Puerto Ayora.

Here you can visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to see the land tortoises, or Galapagos, which once greeting Darwin so peacefully.

Espanola (Hood) Island is one of the oldest of the islands. It small and flat, with no volcanic crater or vent. Gardner Bay on the eastern shore offers the islands most magnificent beach. It is used by a transient colony of sea lions, and is a major nesting site for marine turtles.

The islands lie in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 km from the South American coast and straddling the Equator. There are 13 large islands, 6 smaller ones and 107 islets and rocks, with a total land area of about 8,000 square kilometres. The islands are volcanic in origin and several volcanoes in the west of the archipelago are still very active. Galapagos is a province of the Republic of Ecuador and five of the islands are inhabited, with a total population of around 18,000 people. The capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, although the largest town is Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.


Animal life

Land iguana, Galapagos islands EcuadorGalapagos is home to many unique, endemic animals, most of which are fearless due to the lack of natural predators. One of the best known, the giant tortoise, has evolved into fourteen distinct forms on the different islands of the archipelago. Other reptiles include the marine iguana which grazes on seaweed, land iguanas, lava lizards, geckos and snakes. The only terrestrial mammals are rice rats and two species of bat. The 13 species of small, brownish finches are adapted to a range of different foods and are known collectively as Darwin's finches. They have been important to scientists trying to understand how evolution occurs, and include the tool-using woodpecker finch. Other endemic (only found in Galapagos) land birds include a hawk, dove, flycatcher, rail and four species of mockingbird.

Plant life

Galapagos islands Ecuador, plantsThe plants of Galapagos are equally fascinating. In the highlands are many species of endemic Scalesia ('tree daisies') as well as tree ferns, bromeliads and orchids. Around the coasts are giant prickly pear and candelabra cacti while tiny Brachycereus cacti grow on barren lava flows. On the shores can be found vivid morning glories and mats of bright red sesuvium. Galapagos also has its very own, endemic species of cotton, tomato, pepper, guava and passion flower. Many kinds of plants, particularly those belonging to the daisy family, have evolved on the different islands into whole arrays of endemic species, providing scientists with classic examples of what is known as 'adaptive radiation'.

The Galapagos Islands offer a step back in time and source of inspiration for people throughout the world.

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Galapagos Islands

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