Galapagos Islands Birds
2009 was the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin (1809–1882), most famous for his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859). Many of his ideas came from his voyage on HMS Beagle (1831–1836), and in particular his month-long stay in 1835 on the intriguing Archipiélago de Colón, better known as the Galápagos Islands, 972 km (604 miles) west of Ecuador.
The strange variety of creatures on these islands fascinated Darwin, including the giant tortoises from which they derive their name (Spanish galápago, “saddle”—after the shells of saddlebacked Galápagos tortoises). But the creatures that allegedly provided inspiration for Darwin’s evolutionary ideas, and alleged disproof of creation, were the varieties of birds.
The flightless cormorant’s wings no longer function for flight, but it is able to swim and dive for prey better than its cousins who are still able to fly.
The birds on the Galápagos Islands show an amazing adaptation to their environment, and provide excellent examples of the ability of animals to adapt to changing conditions. The flightless cormorant’s wings no longer function for flight, but it is able to swim and dive for prey better than its cousins who are still able to fly. The blue-footed, red-footed, and masked boobies show the variety of behaviours and appearances that can develop within the same kind. The 13 species of Galápagos finch show various beak sizes to be able to consume different foods, and even exhibit new behaviours.
But are any of these variations examples of evolution? And how does the biblical creation model explain them?
The flightless cormorant is the only variety of cormorant that lives on the Galápagos Islands, and is the only variety of cormorant that cannot fly. It has even been classified as a different genus; it is in the genus Nannopterum while all other cormorants belong to the genus Phalacrocorax. The changes that the flightless cormorant underwent are similar to that of other flightless birds; the keel on the breast bone which supports the muscles used for flight is much smaller, and its legs are much stronger than those of other cormorants. Not needing to use its wings for flight, its wings have deteriorated in ways that would have been eliminated in flying birds. For example, its feathers are softer and more hair-like, much like the feathers of other flightless birds.