0
 
Marine Iguana 6 — Fotopedia
Male iguana on the rocks at Española
Wikipedia Article
See encyclopedia photos — 
Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón, other Spanish names: Islas Galápagos, Spanish pronunciation: [ɡaˈlapaɣos]) are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, 926 km (575 mi) west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part.

The Galápagos Islands and their surrounding waters form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of slightly over 25,000.

The islands are famed for their vast number of endemic species and were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

The first recorded visit to the islands happened by chance in 1535, when the Bishop of Panamá Fray Tomás de Berlanga went to Peru to arbitrate in a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro. De Berlanga was blown off course, though he eventually returned to the Spanish Empire and described the conditions of the islands and the animals that inhabited them. The group of islands was shown and named in Abraham Ortelius's atlas published in 1570. The first crude map of the islands was made in 1684 by the buccaneer Ambrose Cowley, who named the individual islands after some of his fellow pirates or after British royalty and noblemen. These names were used in the authoritative navigation charts of the islands prepared during the Beagle survey under captain Robert Fitzroy, and in Darwin's popular book The Voyage of the Beagle. The then new Republic of Ecuador took the islands from Spanish ownership in 1832, and subsequently gave the islands official Spanish names. The older names remained in use in English language publications, including Herman Melville's The Encantadas of 1854.


See encyclopedia photos — 
Galápagos wildlife

The Galápagos Islands are located off the west coast of South America straddling the equator. The Galápagos are located at the confluence of several currents including the cold Humboldt Current traveling north from South America and the Panama Current traveling south from Central America make the islands cooler than you would think and provide the perfect environment for the unique mix of wildlife that inhabits the islands.

These islands are volcanic in origin and were never attached to any continent. Wildlife arrived here in one of three ways: flying, floating or swimming. Where in most environments larger mammals are normally the predators at the top of the food chain these animals were unable to survive the journey. Thus the giant Galápagos tortoise became the largest land animal and due to the lack of natural predators, the wildlife in the Galápagos is known for being extremely tame.

The Galápagos Islands are noted as a home to a large number of endemic species. The stark rocky islands many with few plants made it necessary for many species need to adapt to survive here and by doing so evolving into new endemic species. It was after visiting the Galápagos and studying the endemic wildlife that inhabit the islands that a young Charles Darwin developed his Theory of Evolution.


See encyclopedia photos — 
Wildlife

Wildlife traditionally refers to non-domesticated animal species, but has come to include all plants, fungi and other organisms which grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans. Domesticating wild plant and animal species for human benefit has occurred many times all over the planet, and has a major impact on the environment, both positive and negative.

Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems. Deserts, forests, rain forests, plains, grasslands, and other areas including the most developed urban sites, all have distinct forms of wildlife. While the term in popular culture usually refers to animals that are untouched by human factors, most scientists agree that wildlife around is affected by human activities.

Humans have historically tended to separate civilization from wildlife in a number of ways including the legal, social, and moral sense. Some animals, however, have adapted to suburban environments. This includes such animals as domesticated cats, dogs, mice, and gerbils. Religions have often declared certain animals to be sacred, and in modern times concern for the natural environment has provoked activists to protest the exploitation of wildlife for human benefit or entertainment.