Happy birthday Evolution! Is there a more redundant exclamation? More correctly I mean bon 150th anniversary to Charles Darwin's book 'The Origin of the Species'.
Following in the footsteps of Darwin
The ideas in this book are so well known today that it's almost impossible to imagine what people thought B.C. (Before Charles Darwin), but more than 160 years ago Darwin embarked on one of the very first tours of the Galapagos, a five year jaunt on 'The Beagle', and what he brought back from this trip enlightened us all.
Inspired by Darwin's influence, today I've come up with this Darwinian pilgrimage to some of the sites the Beagle-bound visited and to some they probably would have liked to visit. In deference to Darwin I have to add the caveat that some of these spots are suffering from the effects of man – currently one of the earth's 'fittest' – so some of them are best visited on this virtual voyage and on the pages of Darwin's book. Though if he had have baulked at adventure what would we all be believing now?
The wonders of the Galapagos must be the the first of Darwin's footsteps to follow in. Stop in at the Charles Darwin Research Station for a lesson in Evolution 101 before heading to Isla Isabela, or down to Tortuga Bay to see some of the tortoises that so impressed Darwin. Sealions play off shore and if you're lucky you'll see both Land and Marine Iguanas, especially if you go diving off Devil's Crown or Los Tuneles, and if you look carefully at the bushes round the bay you may even spot a Vampire Finch. Tread carefully, even on your virtual voyage, to make sure there no more of these unique species are lost to evolution...
Other islands have preserved the secrets of their wildlife against man's interest in a similar way to the Galapagos: Mona Island is called the 'Galapagos of the Caribbean' because of its endemic Mona Iguana, and Komodo Island is referred to as Asia's Galapagos for its very own dinosaur-like lizards – though I'm not sure you'd be wanting to be competing with one of these guys for evolutionary rights. Nearby Flores Island is famous for the 2004 discovery of the hobbit like species of human inhabitants that I'm sure Darwin would have been fascinated to learn about.
Gros Morne National Park often gets a Galapagos tagline as well – this time 'Galapagos of Geology', for its fjords, glaciers and glacial lakes and vastly varying coastline.
But before Beagle-borne Darwin explored the Galapagos he first landed at St. Jago and at several ports along Brazil's coastline – he would most likely have been fascinated by a trip up the Amazon, but that wasn't on the itinerary this time round. At Punta Alta, Patagonia he examined the coastal cliffs and saw the fossils of huge mammals in amongst modern shells, on Tierra del Fuego he went inland, and in the high cliffs of the Andes he found more marine fossils and fossilised coastal trees.
In Australia Darwin marvelled at kangaroos and platypus and what he saw on the Cocos Keeling Island atolls gave him more to consider. Had he had the chance he would also surely have marvelled at the Whale Sharks of Ningaloo Reef and the Dolphins of Monkey Mia. You should probably visit Darwin while you're down this way as well...
While in Ecuador Darwin didn't make time to see the Cloud Forests, but he probably would have found a lot to occupy him there, but he did make time to see some of New Zealand's unique wildlife – the birds especially .
But despite all the wild and wonderful places Darwin visited in his youth, you don't need to leave the city to see some of his treasured collection, much of it's on display in London's Natural History Museum.
Where else did Darwin miss? Your evolutionary ideas are always welcome here:
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