It got me thinking about my trip to Galapagos on one of the National Wildlife Federation's Expeditions, specifically how odd and interesting the wildlife is there, and how strange it is to be around wild animals that have such little fear of people.
That lack of fear is due to the remoteness of the Galapagos archipelago. In many such island ecosystems, there is a lack of large land predators, including humans, so animals evolved without the need for fear or a strong flight response. It's one of the things that makes visiting and photographing the wildlife of the Galapagos such an awesome experience.
To celebrate that, here are some of the odder creatures that I encountered in Galapagos.
These large lizards totally look like miniature Godzillas as they sunned themselves on the rocks and went diving into the ocean to feed on algae. I don't know if the creators of the giant city-smashing reptile from Japan had these iguanas in mind when they came up with the monster's design, but if not the resemblance is uncanny.
The photo below makes it perfectly clear how these birds got their name. They also come in red.
These huge and ancient reptiles almost went extinct due to over-harvesting by sailors and whalers during previous centuries. Protected now, they reproduce slowly and were taken off the Galapagos Islands in such large numbers that even today their populations haven't recovered.
All 13 finch species evolved from one single species. When the original finch species arrived in Galapagos (probably blown there in storms from mainland South America) they found many ecological niches that were unfilled. Through natural selection, the original finch evolved into new forms to take advantage of the new environment and food sources, ultimately resulting in brand new species with different behavior and body structures such as beak shapes.
Most people associate penguins with frigid Antarctic environments, but there are several penguin species that live in temperate or even tropical ecosystems, including the diminutive Galapagos penguin.
Female sea lions and pups lounge about the beach, completely oblivious to and undisturbed by the presence of people. However, I did have a rather scary encounter underwater with a much more curious (and much more large!) male, who swam directly at me from a distance at high speed, only to sharply turn away just a few feet from my face. Talk about an odd animal encounter! Luckily our guides had warned me that the curious sea lions might do this, otherwise I might have panicked.
Photos from Flickr Creative Commons: Marine iguana by Igooch. Galapagos Giant Tortoise by godutchbaby.
Blue footed boobies by eugene. Galapagos sea lion by neilhinchley. Darwin's finch by Tim Ellis. Galapagos penguin by manning999.
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