Boudewijn Goddeeris of Ottenburg, Belgium bares a striking resemblance to what I imagine Charles Darwin might have looked like if he were exploring Española Island in the year 2015 with a Canon 5Dii. Boudewijn is an ecologist and an accomplished researcher in the field of morphology and plate tectonics. His greatest fascination in life is bird watching and as we hiked around the Galapagos Islands together I couldn’t help but find a greater appreciation for these magnificent creatures as well. One evening I stopped by his quarters to hear him give a wonderful lecture and PowerPoint on these topics.
He states, “taxonomy now uses DNA analysis for studying relationships and heredity between organisms but they forget that studying the morphology of an organism is the true passport for entering nature, the ecosystem or biotope. They further analyze molecules but they forget the morphology, which is the transcript of DNA and the means to writing down the heredity of the organism.” He further went on to state, “morphology is the constitution by which DNA is transcribed.” Boudewijn emphasized his point by stating, “it is not changes in DNA that are adaptations, rather they are the physiological or morphological changes which define an organism.” As he continued to define Taxonomy, he mentions “30 years ago only morphology was used to do such tasks. But with technology came the possibility to cheaply analyze DNA sequences (the way in which heredity in cells is written down.) The selection of traits works through the physiology and morphology, indirectly affecting DNA sequence.”
A camera shy Marine Iguana foraging on marine flora within the intertidal zone of Floreana Island zips up and over a kelp-covered section of volcanic reef. The species' slightly laterally compressed tail efficiently moves the Marine Iguana along the surface or beneath the water. Their long, sharp, recurved claws permit the lizard to hold fast to the lava reefs in heavy seas or while feeding under water. Marine Iguanas are only found in the Galapagos Islands archipelago off the coast of Ecuador.
Sharks above and below the waterline, just the way I like it.
North Seymour, Santa Cruz Island.
Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Urvina Bay. Isabela Island, Galápagos.
00-24.20 S, 091-26-13 W
The spirit of Isla Floreana peacefully, ever so quietly, with the slightest whisper, inspires the wonder of Mother Nature's deepest secrets. Two Ecuadorian naturalists lead their group across the finest sand I have ever walked upon. Century 35 NE Graflex 35mm.
Scampering over the reef I spotted a Marchena Lava Lizard (Microlophus habelii). Subsequently, an impromptu staring contest began, which I lost. Of the twenty two species in the genus Tropidurid, nine are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. The remaining species are found along the Andean coastline of Ecuador, Peru and Chile.
Giving chase to a Diamond Stingray (Dasyatis dipterura) along the rocky reefs of Española Island, Galapagos.
Playing peekaboo with a Galapagos Sea Lion off the coast of Fernandina Island.
Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
Punta Moreno, Isabela Island.
Flamingos are wading birds and according to the fossil record, were once widespread. Presently, however, they are restricted to inhospitable habitats, shallow saline lakes and brackish coastal lagoons. Flamingos are able to withstand adverse conditions including high water temperature and water salinity. Where other wader and shorebirds cannot feed, the flamingos enjoy an uncontested feeding niche. Webbed feet allow them to walk on the mud without sinking, while scaly legs help withstand high water salinity.
Flamingos are most often observed wading in small lagoons with shallow waters where they feed mostly on algae, shrimps and other aquatic invertebrates by filtering them out from the water. Dangling their head down into the water, their down-curved bill is then pointed backwards, parallel with the bottom. Swinging their heads from side to side, the tongue acts as a pump, sucking in food floating in the water. The tongue then squeezes the water against the bill with its rows of lamellae (comb-like structure), trapping the tiny prey.
Namaste. A Marine Iguana on Española Island worships the great fire in the sky that gives life, love and light.
Love, Light & Love.
All of which pour down abundantly upon Las Islas Galápagos.
South Plaza Island.
hoja de cristal
Gardner Bay. Española Island, Galåpagos.
01-20.45 S, 089-39.10 W
A slumbering White Tip reef shark catches some Zzz's along the sea floor of North Seymour, Santa Cruz Island.
Long Walk, Wet Landing
The infectiously positive and upbeat Celebrity X Cruise Operations Director Monica reminds a guest to lace up her "good walking shoes," preceding a water taxi ride to hike Isla Fernandina.
My stairway wanderlust on Floreana Island. Century 35 Graflex 35mm.
Alexis, an Ecuadorian naturalist with Parque Nacional Galápagos, recounts the story of Mother Nature's violent relationship between the Nazca and South American Plate.
"Hey honey, remember that one morning on Fernandina Island when a baby sea lion scooted right in from of me so close, I could've reached out and touch it!"
These stories and more will be told for a lifetime with often the best moments going uncaptured.
Put on your Ranger Rick hat and let's play Name that Reptile!
Cactus, it's what's for dinner. (If you are a Galapagos Land Iguana)
The Fascination of Galapagos.
It is written all over their faces.
The connection between humanity and Mother Nature is admired by a trio of tourists returning to their ship aboard a water taxi. The story of the Galapagos carries a moral of preservation and stewardship which must be passed down in order for the next generation to enjoy. Century 35 NE Graflex 35mm.
Grey warbler-finch (Certhidea fusca)
The Warbler Finchesare endemic to the Galápagos Islands and are the most widespread of all the Darwin finches, occurring on every major island of the Galapagos. The finches’ name derives from their warbler-like appearance and behavior. A group of 15 species of similar Passerine birds were first collected by Charles Darwin during the second voyage of the Beagle over a 5 month expedition from 1835-1836. Darwin’s theory of natural selection was intensely focused on “survival of the fittest.” The natural selection of the finches and 15 similar Passerine birds was based on the survival of said birds, (by random mutation) with beak structures that were best adapted for the food supply found in their environment.
Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki)
Gardner Bay, Española Island
01-20.45 S 089-39.10 W
Famous for their brilliant blue feet, the Blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii) needs no introduction. Perhaps the most beloved resident of the islands aside from the Galapagos giant tortoise, this booby species is on rare occasion, a visitor to the West Coast of the United States.
Observancia de la Luz
...Witnessing the miracle of life on Las Islas Galápagos and all forms of life through an entire new lens; that is the great lesson of The Galapagos.
Two Nazca booby (Sula granti) and a marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) share a clutch of rocky perches along the shores of Española Island.
A pair of snorkelers take in the majesty that is Champion Island reef off the coast of Floreana Island.
The Slate Pencil Urchin (Eucadris thouarsii) is one of the Echinoderms and a member of the Cidaridae Family. This phylum of marine animals includes brittle stars, sea cucumbers, and sea stars. They are of great scientific interest because their fossil records date to the Cambrian Age (over 500 million years ago). Presently, 7,000 living species exist while another 13,000 have gone extinct. Urchins move about with many small “tube-feet” just like sea cucumbers and sea stars. While urchins feed on animal and plant materials including algae, barnacles, and decaying detritus, they are popular nutrition for birds, otters, starfish, crabs and humans. Some of the best Uni Roe in the world is located in California waters and is a favorite in Japan. Native Americans living along the California coast consumed urchins for thousands of years. Today they are harvested commercially under strict restrictions following the 1988 harvest of 52 million pounds (worldwide), leading to widespread population decline.
Commonly known as a razor sawtail, they often feed on algae in large shoals along rocky reefs between 1.35m-27m in depth. Razor Surgeonfish are found in eastern waters, most abundant south of ~10N. (including SW Gulf of California to Ecuador and the Islands) where temperature ranges between 25.52-27.49 degrees Celsius.
Isabela Island. Punta Vicente Roca. 00-03.90 S, 091-32.60 W