In 1835, Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle arrived in the Galapagos Islands. Almost two hundred years later, so did I. He studied the animals of the Galapagos, and I took 1000+ photos of them.
You see, we’re the same, Charles and I. His trip to the Galapagos inspired him to write The Origin of Species—a detailed explanation of the mechanisms of evolution—while I was inspired to write this post mainly to show off photos I took of the amazing animals of the Galapagos Islands.
…whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species)
Wow, that sounds EXACTLY like me.
While it’s difficult to see the Galapagos on a budget, it was worth every penny. Most of the expense was in booking a 4-day cruise around the islands. Because many of them are uninhabited, this was the best way to experience the Galapagos. You could stay on one of the habited islands, but I really wanted this experience, and wasn’t sure if I’d get to see all the Galapagos had to offer by staying on land.
It was like the biology field trip I never had, but always wanted. The guides were amazingly informative, and we were able to get up close to the animals—not too close though. Conservation is the number one objective of the Galapagos Islands. Before even stepping out of the airport, you and your luggage get checked for any foreign substances (like foods, seeds, or dirt).
Some of the following information I remember from listening to our guides talk about the animals of the Galapagos. However, I wanted this article have more information than that, so I did some research on my own. At the end of this article you will find the links to all of my sources!
So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to some of the amazing animals of the Galapagos:
The Blue-footed Booby is most easily recognized by it’s distinctive blue feet—a trait evident only in the males. During mating rituals, the Blue-footed Booby will show off his feet to a prospective mate. The bluer the feet, the better! These birds live on the western coasts of Central and South America, with about half of all breeding pairs calling the Galapagos Islands their home.
Like many other birds on the islands, the Blue-footed Booby is a land nesting bird. They stay on land at night, and hunt for fish during the day. Additionally, they can plunge into the ocean in search of prey from as high as 80 feet.
The land iguana is one of three types of iguana in the Galapagos. The other two types are the marine iguana, and the pink iguana. The pink iguana is endangered and native only to the Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island…so very few people get to see it, including me.
The male frigate bird inflates his chest when he wants to mate. Like most animals, the males are the more colorful than the females of the species.
Frigatebirds soar over the sea and get most of their food through kleptoparasiting—stealing the food of other animals. In this case, they often steal fish from the Blue-footed Booby. They may also pick up food from the surface of the water. However, they cannot land on the water, as they lack an oil-secreting gland that keeps the feathers of other, water-loving birds, dry. There are two types of Frigatebird, the Great Frigatebird and the Magnificent Frigatebird.
After almost being hunted into extinction, the Galapagos tortoise is now a protected animal. Facilities on the islands seek to help repopulate them by taking care of the younger, smaller tortoises before releasing them into the wild. Back when the Galapagos Islands were a stopover point to the New World, ships would stock up on them because they provided a source of food and water (like camels, they store water). Also, the tortoises could survive for months without sustenance, making them the ideal “boat snack.”
Swallow-tailed Gulls are ground-nesting birds. They’re the only nocturnal gulls in the world, feeding exclusively at night. There are over fifty colonies of Swallow-tailed Gull spread out over the islands.
As their name suggests, Marine Iguanas can swim. In fact, they survive almost exclusively on seaweed and algae. In order to regulate the amount of salt in their blood, they have special glands to help filter. Not as pretty as the land or pink iguanas, Charles Darwin famously described them as “hideous-looking” and “most disgusting, clumsily lizards.”
I don’t have anything to say about it, I just thought it was pretty.
Galapagos Sea Lion
Male sea lions get to be about 900 pounds fully grown, while females average at about 250 pounds at maturity. They have external ears and their barking is absolutely atrocious. They survive off of the fish they catch in the ocean. When they’re not in the water, they enjoy lounging on the beaches and socializing.
SO ADORABLE! I took hundreds of photos of the sea lions. I couldn’t help it.I just wish I had an underwater camera, because we went snorkeling and one decided to bite my flipper!
Overall, the Galapagos Islands were awe-inspiring. It was a bit expensive, but the experience was unlike any other. The animals were not used to humans as predators, so you got closer to them than you would anywhere else. Despite this, the guides were sure to let you know that you had to stay 10 meters away from the animals at all times.
Keeping the environment untouched by human interference is essential to the Galapagos. You can’t touch the animals, feed them, or even assist animals that may be sick or starving. It wasn’t uncommon to see skeletons on the beach, or a sea lion pup searching for its mother. It was in the Galapagos that Charles Darwin first conceived natural selection, and it’s in the Galapagos that natural selection will proceed unhindered.
Click here for more information on the Blue-Footed Booby.
Click here for more information on Frigatebirds.
Click here for more information on the Swallow-tailed Gull.
Click here for more information on the Marine Iguana.
Click here for more information on Galapagos Sea Lions.
Like the article? The photos? The weirdly long Charles Darwin quote? Let me know!