Nearly 600 miles south of Ecuador lay a cluster of 13 volcanic islands known as the Galapagos Archipelago. Considered to be one of the most volcanic regions in the world, the oldest of the islands is an estimated 4 million years old.


According to the Rochester Institute of Technology Department of Biological Sciences, the islands were discovered by accident in 1535 by father Tomas Berlanga, the bishop of Panama. He described his adventures by noting the tameness of the animals which included birds, tortoises, and marine iguanas. The notorious Charles Darwin became the first individual to study the islands in 1835, three centuries following Berlanga. His studies eventually contributed to his own theory of evolution by natural selection. Today, one of the islands is named after Darwin as well as multiple research facilities located in the archipelago.


In addition to the rich reptilian population found on the Galapagos Islands, nearly 23,000 people are residents of the archipelago. Owned by Ecuador, 95% of the islands consist of the National Park. The remaining 5% consists of nearly 14,000 people disperse among 4 communities. The islands remain one of the few locations left in the world without an indigenous population. Furthermore, as of 2002, nearly 29 species of birds lived among the islands, 26 of which were recorded by Darwin himself. And of course, mammals, sea birds, and plants comprise more than hundreds of species in addition to the aforementioned communities.


The main threat in relation to the Galapagos Islands includes the excessive tourist population and other plants and animals introduced by local residents. Because the native species lack natural predators, these foreign species quickly evade the natural habitat and decimate the environment. Many foreign plant species are also a concern. Of the 700 species known to the Galapagos Islands today, only 500 are native. The other, harmful introduced plants include avocado, guava, and balsa which eventually invade and eliminate endemic species.

Of course, information regarding the Galapagos Islands is much more broad than the above listed paragraphs. This article, however, intends to signify the importance of the islands and hopes to in fact, notify society of the troubles it faces. I, myself, have never visited....and only hope much of the natural, unaffected environment remains when I do.

R.I.T. Department of Biological Sciences (2002). Natural history of the Galapagos Islands. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from