World - ‘The World That Darwin Never Saw': Scientists Discover 30 New Marine Species in the Galapagos
International marine scientists have discovered 30 new species in the deep waters off the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, highlighting how unique the ecosystems of the islands are as well as how little we know about the deep sea.
After Charles Darwin first visited in 1835, the Galapagos became famous for their biodiversity and for their endemic species found nowhere else in the world. Darwin, then 26, spent five weeks surveying the archipelago, reported Smithsonian Magazine.
"The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention," Darwin later said, reported Smithsonian Magazine. "Most of the organic productions are aboriginal creations, found nowhere else."
At the same time, the plants and animals he studied still showed a "marked relationship" to those on the mainland, leading Darwin to form the seeds of his groundbreaking Theory of Evolution, Smithsonian Magazine said. After publishing "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" in 1859, Darwin's theories cemented the Galapagos Islands as "hallowed scientific ground," a reputation that continues today, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
The magic is in the isolation. The removed geography of the islands from the rest of the world allowed for and forced species to adapt and evolve over time to survive their unique habitats on each island, according to WWF and Discovering Galapagos.
Even today, as conditions change, animals and plants continue to develop into new hybrids and species, adding to the islands' rich history. In 2017, a population of finches on the islands were discovered in the process of becoming a new species, reported BBC. In 2019, scientists found a species of giant tortoise on a remote Galapagos island that they hadn't seen alive for 110 years and that they'd feared extinct, reported AP News. As recently as February of this year, conservationists studied 30 giant tortoises partially descended from two extinct species, AP News reported.
"Evolution, in general, can happen very quickly," said Roger Butlin, a speciation expert talking about the finches, reported the BBC.