No Two Alike

While they are all volcanic, each island is unique. Española has soft white sand. Floreana has sand like brown sugar. Look closely, and you’ll see tiny green shards of the precious gem, peridot. Genovesa’s beaches look very different from these. They are made up of razor‑sharp rocks.

Older islands seem more lush and green. That’s because they’ve had more time for plants and animals to thrive.

Erosion from wind and waves breaks rocks down into fertile soil. Trees and other plants take root in the rich soil. They create good places for animals to live.  

Waved albatrosses rule the skies over the Galápagos islands.  

Sea lions bask on volcanic rock.

Coming to Galápagos

The Galápagos are lightly populated with people. Five of the islands are inhabited with a total population of only about 30,000. Yet, the islands host some of the strangest biodiversity of plants and animals in the world.

Most of the plants and animals there today traveled from South America long ago. Some of the first animals were probably birds. Seabirds, like the waved albatrosses, may have come to the islands for a resting or nesting place. Brought to the islands from the mainland by birds, seeds took root and grew.

Over time, many plants have taken root and grown all over this island.  

By Sea and By Air

Other seeds floated to the islands. Mangrove seeds are long, thin, and waterproof. They are weighted on one end. Ocean waves carry them until they hit a shoreline. Then they tip, heavy‑side down, and take root. Many islands here are ringed with mangrove forests. They become nurseries for many species of fish.

Insects arrived on the island as well. Some species of beetles had wings strong enough to fly there. Galápagos spiders “ballooned” their way across the ocean, carried by the winds.

Long ago, giant tortoises floated to the Galápagos from South America.

Many Galápagos flowers bloom white or yellow. These colors attract the islands’ carpenter bees.   

Carpenter bees arrived by mistake. They lay their eggs in driftwood. Some water‑born wood was carried by ocean waves straight to the islands.

What about larger animals? Giant tortoises can’t swim, but they can float. Other reptiles may have floated their way to the islands on patches of vegetation. With no predators to gobble them up, these creatures settled into their new home. Slowly, they evolved to adapt to island life.