A Naturalist's Pilgrimage to the Galapagos
Smithsonian's Laura Helmuth vacationed in the Galapagos Islands and returned with even more respect for Charles Darwin
- By Laura Helmuth
- Smithsonian.com, January 30, 2009
The mascot of the islands is probably the blue-footed booby, shown here with more penguins. I missed the mating dance, unfortunately, in which the boobies shake their blue feet at each other and press their upturned bills together. They tend to be oblivious to people, and they're so goofy looking that they win the most-likely-to-be-depicted-on-a-T-shirt contest.
The Galapagos isn't unique in having fearless animals. Other birds evolved similar behavior, especially on islands: moas, dodos, great auks... notice a pattern? Yeah, most of them are extinct. Either the adults or the eggs were eaten to oblivion by human hunters, with an assist from introduced dogs or rats that attacked the birds' nests.
When Darwin got to the Galapagos, the tortoises had been hammered by whalers and there were some introduced species. But because the islands were so inhospitable to humans, the species there were still fairly untouched.