1. The Galapagos Islands are home to the most unique ecosystem of wildlife in the world. Of the 9,000 species here, over 80% of its land birds and 97% of its reptiles and land mammals are found nowhere else on earth.
2. The Galapagos are situated on an active volcanic area that is called the ‘Galapagos Hotspot’ that regularly produces new islands. This geological feature and the islands’ deep isolation in the Pacific were key in the evolution of its unique animals and plants.
3. The islands that make up the Galapagos Archipelago have very different ages. The westernmost of the archipelago is the youngest, at approx. 700,000 years, while the easternmost is the oldest, at approx. 4 million years.
4. The giant Galapagos tortoise has huge lungs located under the upper part of its shell. When they draw their necks in, they must expel the air in their lungs, giving off a hissing noise. The size of their lungs also mean they float on water, which may be how some of their ancestors crossed over to the islands.
5. Adapted to living on islands with virtually no predators, the giant Galapagos tortoises were dealt a huge blow by the arrival of humans and other animals. Their numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to just 3,000 in the 1970s. Five of the 15 original species are now extinct, but a breeding and protection program by Galapagos National Park is making headway to revive the numbers of the surviving species.