Charles Darwin is considered to be the “founding father of evolution,” and much of his work has enabled present-day scientists to study evolution. Darwin’s work offered insight into how cumulative selection pressures can lead to the natural selection of more useful traits over a given period of time. Being in the right place with the right subjects at the right time, gave way to a large step for humanity from a research standpoint.

Some of Darwin’s initial work has its roots in the Galapagos. There, he happened to have caught a glimpse of marine iguanas (lizards that scour the ocean for food). He also came across many similar species of finches which would soon result as the experimental subjects for much of his foundational work. Environmentalists report that with the subsistence of the new climate change era, these very islands that contributed to our existing knowledge are evolving in their own manner due to climate change. And the situation is only becoming direr. Most of this vulnerability to climate change has to do with their geographical location. Positioned at the conjunction of three ocean currents these islands find themselves at the mercy of strong and ferocious weather patterns such as El NiƱo himself. Some research done a couple of years ago outlines that continuing down the path of climate change will only cause more frequent and rapid heating of the ocean waters. No good could possibly result from the inconsistent temperature of ocean waters. As millions of organisms find and take shelter in the depths of oceans, including fish, populations of these organisms are threatened by even the slightest changes in environmental conditions.

An evolutionary biologist from a university in Germany spent some time on the Galapagos islands. Interestingly, he found that as the temperature of the seas rose, the sizes of iguanas started to decrease. This was due to the lack of abundance of algae which is the primary source of food for these iguanas. Put in simpler terms, the lack of food decreased the size of these iguanas causing them to resemble frogs much more than they resembled any iguana that had previously roamed the Galapagos Islands. This is just one shocking example of the kind of evolution that species are having to endure due to climate change. The land that was previously used to identify heritable characteristics as a cause of evolution is now a witness of the danger of some of these evolutionary features. The adaptive traits that have resulted are dangerous as they have the potential to impact our ecosystems and food chains.

Through a critical lens, it seems like all the fingers still point to us, humans. Some even argue to say that we are the perpetrators and initial cause of this potential widespread disaster. Other say that the Earth would have reached such conditions on its own. While there are plausible debates for both sides, the evolutionary aspect of the situation is much more exciting. With Darwin having uncovered species of finches for his experiments on natural selection, we find that nature itself is selecting certain traits, like body size for iguanas, to better adapt them to their environment. However, these adaptations are only better-equipping animals so they can merely avoid extinction which doesn’t sound so like much of a beneficial adaptation which should be a characteristic that gives one species an advantage over another. It is somewhat scary to think that soon enough, all animals will have to adapt just to avoid extinction. Who knows what other minor or drastic changes we can expect to see in the future. The Galapagos Islands have been targeted and defeated, I guess the real question is, who’s next?

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  1. > An evolutionary biologist from a university in Germany spent some time on the Galapagos islands.

    What is his name? What university is he from? Do you have a link where we can read more about this? What is your source for this information?

    1. His name is Martin Wikelski, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Germany. My source for this particular blog post is the New York Times.

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