Published on April 17th, 2015 | by Geckos Tales Team
5 things you never knew about the Galapagos Islands
Read time: a bit over 4 minutes
Photo courtesy of S.Wood
Everybody knows the Galapagos Islands are awesome. For a start, there are heaps of boobies, cormorants, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions, Sally Lightfoot crabs, Galapagos penguins, and other Galapagos-exclusive inhabitants.
Other reasons for loving the Galapagos include the volcanoes, the black lava flows, the beaches, the swashbuckling history and the fact that it is one of the few places in the world that ACTUALLY resembles another planet. But we here at Geckos like to dig a little deeper when it comes to getting to know our countries. We like to know all the dirt, all the gossip and all the weird stuff. Much to our joy, there’s loads of weird stuff to know about the Galapagos, like:
1. Charles Darwin tried to ride the giant tortoises
Yeah, the highly-respected (r)evolutionary naturalist liked to get his kicks too. He recorded in his journal that he would attempt to climb atop the tortoises, and ride them. Silly sausage.
2. The Kiwis killed of all the Galapagos goats
Way back when (we don’t know when, exactly), some folks moved to Santiago and Isabela islands in an attempt to build a new life out there. They weren’t concerned about the hostile, unpredictable weather or the volcanic landscapes – they just wanted a new home. Anyway, they brought in some goats as a source of sustenance. These goats proceeded to totally mess up the ecosystem, that hadn’t been interfered with up until that point. The goats ate everything and anything, and spread like wildfire. Really cute wildfire.
So eventually, the Galapagos Islands had enough of the goats and decided to call in ex-military snipers from New Zealand, who proceeded to wipe out about 100,000 goats over the course of a few years. The islands were declared goat-free in 2006. Other animal extermination projects saw the demise of non-native pigeons, donkeys and fire ants.
3. Vampire finches are real life
There are your regular finches, then there are your vampire finches. On two of the Galapagos Islands – Darwin and Wolf – isolation has taken its toll on these poor, winged creatures, who have taken to pecking holes in blue-footed and Nazca boobies and feeding on their blood for protein. The boobies don’t even seem to care anymore – and just let these little blood-sucking pests get on with it. Vampire finches also steal eggs from other birds to feed on. Stealing eggs isn’t cool, but being a vampire is. Good on you, vampire finch.
4. Rat-eating centipedes are also real life
This is the kind of critter that makes your neck hairs stand on end. Without going into too much detail, because we might be sick in our mouths, these things can grow up to 30cm and is capable rats and small lizards. Judging by the size of rats and small lizards, we presume this centipede would also be capable of eating Big Macs, double cheeseburgers, hot wings and ice cream sundaes. We’re going to rename this centipede the ‘Big Mac eating centipede’. That’s nowhere near as scary.
5. Charles Darwin didn’t “invent” evolution. Technically.
We don’t just mean that he didn’t “invent” evolution, because evolution existed whether Darwin had written about it or not. What we mean is that Darwin’s granddad, Erasmus, was already talking about evolution and natural selection, and he didn’t even go to the Galapagos for his brainwave. The thing is, Erasmus – a botanist, inventor and philosopher – was expressing his ideas through the medium of poetry and prose. Seriously. Darwin’s granddad wrote poems about all of this stuff 57 years before the origin of the species came out. Here he is talking about natural selection: “The final course of this contest among males seems to be, that the strongest and most active animal should propagate the species which should thus be improved.”
Here’s a poem he wrote about evolution:
“Organic life beneath the shoreless waves Was born and nurs’d in ocean’s pearly caves; First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass, Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass; These, as successive generations bloom, New powers acquire and larger limbs assume; Whence countless groups of vegetation spring, And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing.”
And while we’re here, here’s a little something-something about all life coming from ONE SINGLE ORGANISM:
“Would it be too bold to imagine, that in the great length of time, since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality …”
Yup. Darwin’s granddad had it like that. We’re not saying young Charles ripped off his relative, merely that, y’know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Check out the Galapagos Islands on a Geckos adventure.