Facts About the Galápagos Islands-Ecosystems, Fauna and Flora
Galapagos Islands situated in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean is made up of nineteen islands. They are an archipelago of islands situated very close to the equator, 600 miles from the Ecuador coastline. These islands are a hub of volcanic activities and land formations. Galapagos Islands were officially discovered by Fray Tomas de Berlanga in 1535, Bishop of Panama.
The Galapagos Islands are made up of 61 major islands and islets, with thirteen major islands – Baltra, Espanola, Fernandina, Floreana, Genovesa, Isabela, Marchena, Pinta, Pinzone, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Santa FE and Santiago. The total area of the Galapagos Islands is about 4,897 sq. miles.
A chain of volcanoes
The Galapagos Islands are a chain of volcanic peaks and are situated in the area where the Nazca Plate passes under the South American Plate. The most active volcanoes in recent times are located on Fernandina, Isabela, Pinta, and Marchena islands.
Each major island has a single large shield volcano (a volcano with a gentle slope and a natural shape that is formed by a steady stream of slow flowing magma). The biggest island Isabella does not have a shield volcano.
Island Isabella was formed by six volcanoes above sea level and is 1,771 square miles in area. The largest volcano of the archipelago, “Volcan Wolf” is located in Isabela island at an altitude of 5,600 feet.
All the islands have risen above the ocean floor as volcanic formations during Pliocene era (the period of geologic time, marked by the appearance of most modern animals about two to seven million years ago). The Galapagos Islands have never been connected to any mainlands. Even today these islands have volcanic eruptions very frequently.
The Galapagos Islands are very young – no more than five million years old. Scientists observe the changes taking place in these islands and their effects on the tides, wind, and weather. By doing this, the scientists can understand and study the impact these changes have on the environment of the Galapagos Islands, a part of our Planet Earth. These studies help the scientists to develop ways to protect the environment of our world.
Ecosystems in Galapagos Islands
The Galapogas Islands have four main ecosystems –
- Arid lowlands, open forests of enormous cacti
- Subtropical forests
- Moist, dense forests with trees found in higher elevations
- Upland areas without any trees, covered by ferns and grasses
Many calderas (a large crater formed by volcanic explosions) and cones have formed throughout the archipelago, the largest being found on Isabela and Fernandina Islands.
Fauna and Flora of Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are native to rare species such as the Galapagos giant tortoise with eleven subspecies spread all across the Islands, thirteen species of Darwin’s finches, terrestrial iguanas, marine iguanas and lizards.
The other exotic bird species are Dark-Rumped Petrel, Galapagos Flightless Cormorant, Galapagos Penguin Lava Gull, Galapagos Hawk, Floreana Mockingbird, Lava Heron, Galapagos Martin Nocturnal Swallow-Tailed Gull, Thick-Billed Fly Catcher, Galapagos Rail and Galapagos Dove.
The native mammalian fauna includes Galapagos Fur Seal, Galapagos Sea Lion, Whales, and Dolphins.
The marine fauna includes Green Turtles, Hawksbill, Turtles, Sharks, Rays, Crabs, Sea Urchins, Starfishes and much more.
Galapagos Islands is home to one of it's kind giant Pinta tortoise also known as “Lonesome George” (lived for a century)
Another highlight of these islands is that two major oceanic currents converge here - the cold Humboldt current and the warm Panama current. This has resulted in an incredible range of marine species.
The plants on these islands are unusual and unique. For example, Large Pear, Candelabra, Cacti, Bromeliads, Orchids, Tree Daisies and much more.
Charles Darwin and Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands were responsible for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Charles Darwin visited these islands during his voyage on the HMS Beagle. He studied the endemic species of the Galapagos islands which lead to his theory of natural selection.
In 1978 UNESCO declared Galapagos Islands as the first World Heritage Site. The Charles Darwin Research Station in the archipelago was set up to protect the eco-system and to regulate incoming boats, tourists, etc.
Galapagos Islands - A paradise
The Galapagos Islands -
- a land of pristine pure nature
- a land of dormant and active volcanoes
- visited by Charles Darwin
- where you can find exotic birds, animals, and plants
- where you can dive, trek and snorkel
- explore and learn
In short Galapagos Islands is a paradise for people who love to travel and explore.
© 2012 Nithya Venkat