The Galapagos Islands are considered the world's greatest natural laboratory. Charles Darwin, the scientist, visited the islands in 1835 and his famous work "The Origin of Species" was published 23 years after this visit. Darwin's theory of evolution changed the scientific landscape.
Darwin studied island species, mainly finches and tortoises, his studies concluded that these species had evolved in different ways in each island.
Nature had adapted to the environment to better increase their chances of survival.
On the whole, Galapagos plants tend to be 'pioneer' species, hardy plants which successfully cross oceans and manage to establish themselves in the often hostile environment of islands. Because relatively few plants succeed in doing this, the flora is 'depauperate' - there are far fewer species here than in similar environments on the South American mainland. Plants are also adapted to having very few insects or other animals to pollinate their flowers or disperse their fruits and seeds. This means there are few big, showy flowers to attract pollinators and few specialized fleshy fruits. But there are some fascinating relationships between plants and animals. The giant tortoises and land iguanas, for example, feed on Opuntia, the prickly pear cactus, and have influenced its growth form on different islands.
While the volcano on Santa Cruz island, where Hotel Solymar is located, is dormant other younger islands are still developing around the archipelago. Referred at times as the "Islands born of Fire" in the last 200 years there have been 50 volcanic eruptions, creating new land as well as threatening endemic fauna. One could include the new pāhoehoe lava flow on Santiago Island, that was unseen in Darwin's time.
One of Galapagos' most notable features is its harsh and volcanic landscape. Like Hawai'i, the islands are located over an area of hot mantle that basically burns through earth's crust, creating volcanic activity. At these "hot spots," volcanic eruptions pile upon older volcanic eruptions over millennia until the volcanic earth is pushed up to the surface of the ocean --forming our enchanted islands.
The Galapagos islands emerged from the sea floor 5 or 6 million year ago, as a result of violent submarine volcanic activity. In geological terms, the islands are still quite young. When these new islands cooled, two million years later, some species gradually arrived, live animals aboard "rafts of vegetation" departing from the coasts of Central and South America.
These early immigrants had to adapt quickly to a new climate and slowly began to evolve into different species in comparison to their mainland ancestors. One of nature's true wonders that these formed unique or "endemic" species of the islands.
In fact, when Darwin published his book "On the Origin of Species", the thinkers of the nineteenth century confirmed his suspicions that species were not immutable, and recognized the islands as a living natural laboratory.