Blog posts about IE's Galapagos tours, as well as news and ecotourism.
The Galapagos Islands are legendary for their population of curious, approachable wildlife, and South Plaza island — one of the smallest in the chain — is a great place to see many of the Galapagos' endemic creatures.
Lonesome George, the giant tortoise that became perhaps the best-known resident of Galapagos Islands passed away this past Sunday in his pen at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Scientists estimate that he was around 100 years old.
According to Galapagos National Park officials, Fausto Llerena, George’s keeper for 40 years, found him dead in his corral. With George’s passing, the Pinta Island subspecies of giant tortoise is now considered extinct.
The Galapagos Islands are known for the diverse array of plants and animals that call the archipelago home and few are more powerful than the Galapagos hawk. This predatory bird is one of the few animals that prey on other large creatures on the islands, and is the only raptor living on the Galapagos Islands. The hawks are also active during the day, which means you're likely to see them circling the skies during International Expeditions’ small ship cruises to the Galapagos.
When Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos, he was repulsed by the marine iguanas, famously referring to them in his journal as “imps of darkness.” But these “disgusting, clumsy lizards” were one of the keys that helped Darwin unlock the secrets of his theory of evolution. Galapagos marine iguanas are the only aquatic lizards in the world, and Darwin surmised they were able to adapt their ability to swim and dive for food to suit their habitat.
Blue-footed boobies may be one of the most popular Galapagos Islands birds, but there are plenty of other exotic avian creatures on the archipelago, like the red-footed booby. This bird is the smallest member of the booby family. If you want to see these birds in their natural habitat, you must travel to outlying Genovesa Island, a highly protected island that is home to a large colony of the red-footed boobies can be found.
Scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, the Oakland Museum and the National Museum of Natural History recently reported the discovery of a previously undocumented shark species swimming around the waters of the Galapagos Islands. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the researchers actually found and collected a number of these sharks back in 1998, but the process of cataloguing a new species is not a quick one, as everything from ensuring it is actually new to naming it can be time-consuming.
Many different species of birds are monogamous — they may change partners over the course of their lives, but they're typically faithful. However, according to a new study by researchers from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and Columbia University, some birds are prone to infidelity and even "divorce." In fact, the scientist observed a connection between instances of birds being unfaithful to one another and severe weather fluctuations.
The Galapagos Islands are perhaps best known for their curious and approachable wildlife, but there are 560 native species of plants in the islands—plants which arrived in the islands by natural means. And of these, 180 are endemic to the islands, meaning they are found nowhere else. The islands, formed by volcanoes, have a wide variety of climates and vegetative zones each hosting a unique set of flora and fauna. The desert-like lowland areas between the coasts and the higher-altitude areas are home to the aptly named lava cactus and lava morning glory.
Like many species of the Galapagos Islands, marine and land iguanas are colorful, eccentric and can vary noticeably depending on the island you happen to be visiting.
Of the myriad species spotted on Galapagos Islands cruises, most travelers expect to see rare and exotic species of sea turtles. Now it seems that the days when vacationers could see the ancient Pinta tortoise could be numbered, as the species has dwindled down to a single representative.