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Know Before You Go

The Arrival of Native Species in the Galapagos Islands

Scientists agree that the Galapagos Islands never connected to the mainland. Thus, the ancestors of every plant and animal species native to the islands arrived in the archipelago from somewhere else. Despite a separation of hundreds of miles from the mainland, most of the animals in the Galapagos originated from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Land birds and California sea lions arrived from North America, and pink flamingos and Darwin’s finches arrived from the Caribbean. Land iguanas, giant tortoises, pelicans, cormorants and boobies all arrived from South America. Fur sea lions and penguins came north thousands of years ago as a result of the Humboldt Current from the Antarctic. Animals that were not so adaptive to the ocean, such as land mammals, had to wait until passage was provided by human vessels.

Today, most scientists accept the theory of long-distance dispersal for bringing life to the Galapagos Islands. It is hard to imagine that so many organisms could endure the hazardous voyage, survive in an unfamiliar environment and reproduce. Flotation rafts of natural vegetation, wind and air currents and oceanic drift all contributed to this “sweepstakes dispersal.” Birds displaced from their migratory routes also landed on the islands. Sea birds carried seeds and invertebrates on their feathers and in their digestive tracts. When they deposited this “cargo,” new colonies took root.

Many animals are not found in the Galapagos. Amphibians and other aquatic animals, for example, are poorly represented. Large terrestrial mammals also failed to make the crossing. The lack of herbivorous mammals left a niche open for tortoises. These huge reptiles developed and became the large grazing herbivores on land—a position they enjoyed until the relatively recent arrival of humans with domestic livestock.
Browse Our Small-Group Galapagos Cruises
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Classic Galapagos: The Natural Habitat Experience
New Ship!

Classic Galapagos: The Natural Habitat Experience

Small-group adventures aboard your choice of private yachts, led by our outstanding naturalist guides and photo pros. Snorkel and swim with sea lions, sea turtles and penguins on this incomparable nature odyssey.

  Photo departures available
8 or 10 Days / Year-Round / From $5295 (+air)
Limited to 16 Travelers
New Ship!
Family Galapagos Adventure
New Itinerary!

Family Galapagos Adventure

Share one of the most phenomenal wild places on the planet as you snorkel with sea lions, laugh at blue-footed boobies and relish the natural world together.
7 Days / Year-Round / From $5900 Adult; $5400 Child (+air)
New Itinerary!
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Together, Natural Habitat Adventures and World Wildlife Fund have teamed up to arrange nearly a hundred nature travel experiences around the planet, while helping to protect the spectacular places we visit and their wild inhabitants.

Natural Habitat Adventures 2022 Catalog

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Natural Habitat Adventures 2022 Catalog
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