The Galapagos Islands, located about 600 miles west of continental Ecuador, contain a rich history of settlement and exploration and represent a living example of evolution that is still relevant today. For centuries, this chain of volcanic islands has been used uniquely by various cultures based off distinct needs. What has remained the same however is the fact that island isolation has forced many animal and plant species to adapt differently from one another based off their island’s environmental conditions, creating a living model of microevolution over time. Today, these models tend to be the primary resources used by biology professors when teaching their students evolutionary topics.
The Galapagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean with a chain that stretches as far as 220 kilometers from the most northern to the most southern island. This archipelago of volcanic islands is positioned in a way where some islands are found north of the Equator and others are found south of the Equator. There is even one island, Volcan Wolf, which is positioned directly on the equatorial line. The Galapagos has absolutely no indigenous population, and those 25,000 citizens that do live there now speak primarily Spanish. There are a total of 18 main islands, 3 small islands, and 107 islets (very small islands).
Volcanism is a major part of the Galapagos and their formation. The island chain is positioned on the Nazca Plate, which is subducting beneath the South American Plate at a geologically rapid pace of 2.5 inches per year. In addition, this Nazca Plate is located directly on top of the Galapagos Hotspot. It is here that mantle plumes melt Earth’s crust, creating volcanoes as a product. The oldest island was first shaped by this hotspot somewhere between 8-90mya and has moved farther away from it as new islands formed behind it. Currently there are two islands, Isabella and Fernandina, which are still being molded today, and are thus still highly active volcanoes.
The weather in the Galapagos consists of two different seasons. Both are marked all year by freezing rain due to the Humboldt Current flowing from the south. Other than this one similarity, the two seasons are completely opposites of one another. Constant wind and fog as well as regular rain showers that often last entire days characterize the months of June through November. December through May on the other hand is sunny, windless, and has very little precipitation. The Galapagos are also affected every three to seven years by a weather cycle known as El Nino. This climate pattern causes extreme drought, which greatly influences both terrestrial and marine organisms. It is characterized by a warming of sea temperature, rise in sea level, and depletion of nutrients.
The Galapagos Islands hold a very extensive history marked by constant changes in reasons for people using them. The first documented discovery of the islands occurred in 1535 when Fray Tomas de Berlanga of Panama...