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Major Pacific currents, cool and warm, converge at the Galapagos to create a unique environmental setting for a startling diversity of marine life.

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"I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago; it is, that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings" -- Charles Darwin.

Straddling the equator, the Galapagos lie 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador. They form a volcanic archipelago embraced by great Pacific currents. It was here in 1835 that the young English naturalist Charles Darwin observed the strange plants and animals that later contributed to his theory of evolution by natural selection.

What Charles Darwin never saw, however, was the world beneath the sea, an underwater world richer than that above the tide line and perhaps just as strange.

A marine iguana holds its breadth
while grazing on seafloor algae

Life beneath the surface presents as greater contrast to the creatures of the land, as the fauna of a tropical jungle differs from that of the arctic. This was written by William Beebe in 1923 after conducting marine studies in the Galapagos. The discovery of new and exotic species in these waters continually adds to the Galapagos's rich roster of marine flora and fauna-nearly 25% of which occurs nowhere else in the world.


Tiny coral polyps such as that above thrive on
a movable feast of plankton, nourished in turn by
 nutrients in the cool currents flowing past the island

Delicate sea anemones


A sea lion performs an aquatic ballet

A marine iguana demonstrates serpentine grace
as it swims on the surface, contrasting sharply with its sluggish
behaviour on land. Related to land iguanas, also found throughout the
archipelago, these creatures stay submerged for ten to fifteen minutes at a time

Tropical fish such as marine grunts
are in abundance off the Galapagos Islands

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Sunset at the Galapagos Islands

Unlike the terrestrial environment, which provided Charles Darwin with the insight to crystallize his concept of evolution, the Galapagos marine environments has yet to be fully discovered and appreciated by the scientists and naturalists. The opportunity to work in surroundings so undisturbed by man is becoming rare indeed. The Ecuadorian National Park Service has made tremendous stride in conservation including expanding the Park's boundaries to protect the delicate marine environment. The officers hope that the unique world beneath the sea will survive unspoiled for the enjoyment and use of generations to come.

 click here Galapagos Islands                
  click here Jane's Oceania Home Page  
Jane Resture
(E-mail: -- Rev. 27th August 2003)