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Galapagos islands - Research Paper Example

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Name Instructor Class Date The Scientific Importance of the Galapagos Islands The Galapagos Islands, a cluster of 13 main and three smaller islands, are located on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles west of South America. The historic and scientific importance of these islands is due to the observations of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) when visiting the Galapagos in 1831…
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Download file to see previous pages In addition, sailors have used the islands as a food source and rest stop for hundreds of years. The combination has been an environmental disaster. Efforts have been made through the years to curb the loss of native animal populations due to man’s carelessness but some have become extinct anyway, a shame anywhere that might occur but especially so for these particular islands. The idea of evolution was formed before Darwin’s birth but it was his book On Origin of the Species that popularized the concept. This book is the source of most all educated people’s knowledge of the science to this day. Of course since it’s writing scientists have expanded the field of knowledge regarding the evolutionary process. Though Darwin had studied the evolution, his writings suggest that he still believed in the biblical account of creation before boarding the H.M.S. Beagle on its voyage to the Pacific Ocean, that it was compatible with biological evolution theory. Once he returned from the islands and thoroughly studied the evidence he had brought back, his concept of the creation of man had evolved to purely a scientific explanation. The species of animals found on the Galapagos are unlike any other, anywhere in the world. Darwin observed a bird, a type of Finch, was very similar but had slightly different characteristics depending on the particular island they inhabited. Interestingly, each island is vastly different. One is like a desert, a second like a lowland forest, a third has a dense forest, a fourth subtropical forests usually found only in higher elevations, a fifth grassy plain-like conditions and so on. He recognized that the Finch’s were different because they had developed specialized physical features designed to adapt to the differing environments. Darwin theorized that a single type of Finch flew to the islands originally then, through biological evolutionary process, developed into several different species over millions of years. The Galapagos Island chain is fairly new, geologically speaking. It was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions occurring between three and five million years ago. Darwin understood that the island’s isolated location must have offered life the opportunity for a new beginning. “Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period, geologically recent, the unbroken ocean was here spread out,” he documented in his Journal of Researches. “Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact, that mystery of mysteries, the first appearance of new beings on this earth.” (Sulloway, 2005). In other words, the circumstances inherent in the islands was a unique opportunity to view how evolution occurs over a relatively rapid period of time over a very short distance, the perfect laboratory to confirm observations and theories. When he returned to his home in England, Darwin, along with a respected ornithologist (bird expert) identified 13 different finch species he had brought back from the Galapagos. The ornithologist was baffled because he knew that only one species of finch lived on the entire South American Continent which was the only feasible location from which a bird that size could reach the Galapagos without have to land. He also noticed that the beaks ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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