Photography of wildlife from the Galapagos Islands gives us some of the most diverse and enriched pictures of animals known to man or woman.
It is not a surprise Charles Darwin spent weeks on end on the island, and based an entire study of evolution upon the wildlife he saw.
In his book, On the Origins of Species, Charles Darwin revealed two of nature’s most guarded secrets to the entire world: the evolution theory and the amazing diversity on The Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Islands lie 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. For years, the Islands remained a closely-guarded secret of the natural world.
Until one day in 1835, the 22-year-old Darwin arrived and changed the way we understand the natural world.
A brief background on Charles Darwin and the Galápagos Islands
The Gálapagos Islands are home to the famous finch specimen that led to Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selections.
Darwin spent five weeks on the islands exploring their unique flora and fauna, only to realize a subtle, but critical, difference in the animals’ physiologies, diets, and behaviors.
This led him to formulate his theory of natural selection.
What makes the wildlife in the Galapagos unique?
The Islands are home to some of the most unique species of the world. In fact, 80 percent of the land birds, 97 percent of the reptiles and land mammals and 30 percent of plants are endemic.
And, what has really caught international acclaim and attention is the island’s marine species. More than 20 percent of them, including the giant Galapagos tortoise, marine iguana, and the Galapagos penguin, are found nowhere else on earth.
Here are six wild animals in the Galapagos captured by photography that you cannot see anywhere else in the world.
The Galapagos tortoise is one of the most well-known species in the Galapagos Islands. These giant reptiles are the largest living species of tortoise in the world.
Some specimens exceed 5 feet in length and reach 550 pounds. They are also the longest-living species in the world, on average they live up to 100 years.
Unfortunately, there are only 10 types of giant tortoises left in the Galapagos, down from 15 when Charles Darwin arrived. It is estimated that more than 100,000 tortoises were killed off during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, hunted by pirates, whalers, and merchants for food.
Hence, many of the tortoise subspecies are now listed as endangered or critically endangered and have been strictly protected by the Ecuadorian government since 1970.
Blue-Footed Boobies are another one of the Galapagos’ main attractions. Although you can find them on the western coasts of Central and South America, they are most popular in the Galapagos Islands.
In fact, the population includes about half of all breeding pairs of blue-footed boobies.
These incredibly diverse birds take great pride in their blue-footed feet. The bluer the foot, the more attractive they are. It is common that during mating season, males show-off their feet to prospective mates.
These are the only penguin species in the Northern Hemisphere.
Their population is fewer than 2,000, and thus they are considered an endangered species.
And the biggest threat to their existence is climate change and pollution, as well as diseases carried by other animals.
Darwin’s Finches, as the name suggests, are animals named after Charles Darwin himself. They are actually not real finches. They belong to the tanager family.
Their closest known relative is, in fact, the dull-colored grassquit, and this photography captures the Galapagos wildlife up-close and personal.
Once the original grassquits arrived at Galapagos, they diversified and adapted to the different environments found on the Islands, eventually becoming different species.
Hence, these species became the pinpoint of ground for Darwin’s studies.
The marine iguanas can be seen anywhere in the Galapagos Islands. Charles Darwin famously described them as “hideous-looking,” and “most disgusting, clumsy lizards.”
Thus, their homely looks are what they are known for.
But what these unusual animals lack in looks, they make up for with their amazing and unique ecological adaptations. In fact, each of the Galapagos Islands hosts marine iguanas of unique sizes, shapes, and colors.
The species is also considered vulnerable to extinction and their exact population is unknown. They are under constant pressure from non-native predators like rats, feral cats, and dogs, who feed on their eggs and young.
Galapagos Sea Lions
They are one of only a few marine mammals resident in the Galapagos. In fact, they are the largest endemic land animal in the Galapagos.
And, although their appearance might look similar to the California sea lion, they are smaller and breed only on the islands.
These sea lions are common on the islands and very friendly as well. They love to swim with people. And, if you are lucky you might also see them breading right next to you.
They live within the cities and mix with the people. Because of this, there are strict rules to protect sea lions and other animals that live there.
The Galapagos Islands and their wildlife is a pure treat in photography
Word of the islands has grown since Darwin’s daring expedition. In 1959, the Galapagos became Ecuador’s first national park. And in 1978, they were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, more than 300,000 people visit the island to see the incredible animals and landscapes. And because of photography, we get to see this beautiful Galapagos Islands wildlife in all its beauty and splendor.