The Galápagos Islands

A Sally lightfoot crab in the Galapagos. © CI/Photo by Roderic Mast
A Sally lightfoot crab in the Galápagos.
© CI/Photo by Roderic Mast
Ecosystems of the Galápagos

The Galápagos Islands’ unique and abundant marine and terrestrial ecosystems result from the coming together of diverse ocean currents with rich deep ocean waters that surge to the surface throughout the area. These waters are stocked with life brought from various source areas by the currents, resulting in ecosystems high in diversity, endemism and biomass.

The Galápagos archipelago consists of 130 volcanic islands and islets, with each major island home to unique species not found on any other island. The unrivalled collection of specially adapted species inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

READ MORE: Protecting the Land of Darwin

A report by the Charles Darwin Foundation and World Wildlife Fund documented 2,909 marine species for the archipelago in 2002. Shark diversity and abundance is particularly high and includes the Whale Shark.

The islands’ coastal-marine fauna includes many endemic and/or threatened species, such as the Galápagos sea lion, Galápagos fur seal, marine iguana, and green sea turtle, as well as many threatened species of fish, seaweed, coral and other invertebrates.

IN PHOTOS: The Galápagos Islands Gallery

An estimated 750,000 seabirds are found in the islands including

  • 30 percent of the world’s blue-footed boobies 
  • the world’s largest red-footed booby colony
  • the largest concentration of Nazca (masked) boobies and 
  • the entire world population of six other seabird species, including two gulls, the waved albatross, the Galápagos penguin, the Galápagos petrel and a flightless cormorant.

In addition to extraordinary species diversity, the Galápagos also has a wealth of habitat diversity, including rocky flats, vertical walls, sandy beaches, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and coral reefs.

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