Where is the Galapagos located?
Dr. Bohlin helps us understand the significance of the Galapagos Islands in the birth of the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. Based on personal observation on these unique isolated islands, he explains why he is not convinced that the animals of these islands make a case for the evolution of all living things.
What’s So Important About the Galapagos Islands?
The Galapagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean, 650 miles off the coast of Ecuador in South America. They are isolated from any other island group or land form.
What’s so important about the Galapagos Islands? Here are four reasons:
First, because they are extremely isolated, the Galapagos Islands are home for dozens of species of both plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. The Galapagos Tortoise, for example, is the largest reptile found anywhere on the planet, and it lives longer than any animal known to man. The oldest is currently over 170 years old and lives in a zoo in Australia. Other unique animals include the Flightless Cormorant, the Marine Iguana, the Galapagos Penguin, and Darwin’s Finches.
There are even unique forms of plants including numerous forms of cacti and at least thirteen species of sunflower or daisy-like plants, one of which is a “sunflower” tree with bark and no tree rings.
Second, Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos for five weeks in 1835 on the HMS Beagle provided the starting point for the development of his theory of natural selection. Darwin had believed that God individually created each species. However, when he saw and studied variations between similar species from island to island, he correctly reasoned that a natural process made more sense. However, he eventually threw the baby out with the bathwater by reasoning that all species arose by a natural process through natural selection. Darwin’s Finches continue to be used as a textbook example of evolution today.
Third, similar to the Hawaiian Islands, the Galapagos Islands are volcanic. There is a geological hotspot deep in the earth’s crust underneath the Pacific tectonic plate where magma flows to the surface. The hotspot remains stationary. However, as the Pacific plate moves from west to east, new volcanic islands begin to appear beneath the sea until they eventually poke above the surface to create a new Galapagos island. The youngest of the islands is the island of Fernandina which is the westernmost island. It is estimated geologically to be 800, 000 years old. The oldest islands off to the east are estimated to be 3 million years old.
Fourth, two major ocean currents affect the climate of the Galapagos. First, from the south comes the Humboldt Current from Antarctica. Second, a deep-water current comes from the west. Upon reaching the islands, this cold deep water current brings with it a large supply of nutrients that feed the bottom of the food chain. Consequently the western waters of the Galapagos are colder and richer in marine life. These cold-water currents keep the temperature of the islands rather moderate for islands on the equator. In the Galapagos, the waters usually range from the 60s to the 70s F (15-22 degrees Centigrade), creating a more temperate climate for these equatorial islands.