Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

These islands, recently formed within the last ten million years are truly a laboratory to explore numerous endemic species and speculate on their origin and interactions. With extremely high endemism, appropriate to the distance from mainland South America, the mammals and birds have a surprising lack of fear to us humans, due to historic lack of land predators here.

Some of the notable littoral zone animals are the Galapagos Sea Lion, who might inquisitively follow you as you hike, or whimsically bask in mangrove trees; the Marine Iguana; Galapagos Lava Lizard, Giant Land Iguana and Sally Lightfoot Crab. All of these are present on most of the islands and in profusion. Birdlife is also abundant both in the littoral zone, as well as the Arid Zone and Humid Zone (progressively higher elevation ecosystems), Of great interest are the low lying nesting sites on North Seymour Island, where Blue=footed Booby, Brown Booby and Magnicent Frigatebird giant twig nests are seen in the scrub.

Hiking is superb, with opportunities I had for rocky and sandy littoral hikes as well as full ascent of some of the volcanic peaks. Much of the lava flow is quite fresh (e.g. from last two centuries) and plant colonization is slow, so that amazing geometrically artistic flows yield great photographs. Some pioneer colonizers are the Galapagos Lava Cactus and Sandmat Plant. On these lava expanses there are often no marked trails (e.g. no soil). Some of the interesting places are “islands” of soil that became totally surrounded by lava flow; thus one sees a mature arid zone ecosystem millennia old that is engulfed on all sides by a lava flow of two centuries earlier. These patches of mature arid scrub are replete with small trees, shrubs, herbs, insects, birds and lizards, while no other living things may be seen for hundreds of meters in any direction. Patch size of these remnants are typically 1000 to 10000 square meters.

Snorkeling was rather turbid on the days I entered the water, likely due to the rough seas for this isolated island group around 1000 km from the mainland; I did obtain some underwater photography with my new Gopro, but it is for more entertainment value, rather than scientific observation. Around some of the outer islands there are areas of decent coral; some degradation of coral reefs has occurred chiefly from overfishing. There has been no documented degradation from water temperature alteration, which is thought to be negligible at these locations. The main overfishing is occurring from Chinese fishing fleets, which are conducting illegal take; the Ecuadorian Navy and Coast Guard do not have sufficient resources to interdict such illegal fishing in the volumes being conducted.

Access to the Galapagos for land visitors is closely controlled, such that landing your own small boat is virtually impossible. You will most likely have to book a small boat facility with onboard accommodation, and actual landings (usually wet) are typically by zodiak vessel.This governmemta; control is necessary to limit visiting human populations and protect the islands.

When one carefully studies the natural wonders of the Galapagos, one sees that there is no confl­ict between the concepts of Creation and evolution. Recent adaptation of species here is simply a mechanism of the Creation.

Lähettänyt c_michael_hogan c_michael_hogan, 23. maaliskuuta 2018 18:30

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This one was swimming purposefully on its back in the clear shallow waters of Shipwreck Bay

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Joulukuu 8, 2017 11:16 AM PST

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Ecuador (Google, OSM)

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Abundant low growing mat plant here

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Sinijalkasuula (Sula nebouxii)

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Yölokki (Creagrus furcatus)

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The only nocturnal gull in the world. Note curved beak

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Suomutropiikkilintu (Phaethon aethereus)

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The Red billed tropicbird is common around this rocky skerry near Punta Pitt. Note the elongated tail and red beak

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Maasirkku (Geospiza fortis)

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