Why Are the Galapagos Islands Famous?

galapagos-islands-famous Credit: Juergen Ritterbach/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The Galapagos Islands are famous for the incredibly diverse forms of life that are found there. Their place within the history of scientific research and theorization is also enormously significant, having contributed to some of the most compelling and far-reaching explanations for the development of life on earth, including evolutionary theory in particular.

The Galapagos Islands are noted for the consistent widespread endemism of many of their resident life forms, a phenomenon that results in the presence of entirely unique animals and plants that exist there and nowhere else on the planet. According to the Galapagos Conservancy, about 80 percent of land birds and 97 percent of reptiles and land mammals are unique to the Galapagos. Furthermore, over 30 percent of plant life and more than 20 percent of marine life are also endemic. This makes the protection and study of Galapagos biodiversity a paramount concern for specialists all over the globe as well as for the Peruvian government, which owns the islands.

The Galapagos' place in the history of science is especially celebrated due to Charles Darwin's visit there aboard the Beagle in 1835. Darwin's observations of wildlife during his stay there, particularly of native birds, proved instrumental in his formulation of ideas regarding natural selection and evolution, which he ultimately featured in his canonical "Origin of the Species," which was published just over 20 years later in 1859.