A Species Of Animal Is Introduced To A Small Island The Baby of the Bunch: Fernandina Island, Galapagos

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The Baby of the Bunch: Fernandina Island, Galapagos

The westernmost island, or Fernandina (British sailors called it “Narborough,” but the Spanish name stuck), is the youngest.

It is named for King Fernando of Spain, the monarch who sponsored Christopher Columbus’ voyage of discovery in 1492. It is also the most volcanically active, and several serious eruptions have occurred there, most recently in 2005.

In February 1825, Benjamin Morrell, captain of the British whaling ship Tartar, was passing between Fernandina and Isabela when the volcano at Fernandina, known as La Cumbre, erupted: he barely managed to bring his ship to safety.

The tar was melting from the mounts as it drifted away, finally anchoring some fifty miles away. Some of the crew fainted from the heat and stifling air.

The Galapagos Islands were formed by a “hot spot,” or a place beneath the earth’s core that causes the crust above it to form volcanoes.

As the earth’s crust, in this case the Nazca Plate, moves through it, a series of volcanoes form, resulting in a chain of islands more or less in a line. In the Galapagos, the Nazca Plate moves from west to east over the hotspot, forming volcanoes (which in turn form islands).

Due to increased volcanic activity and its relative youth, Fernandina has less plant life than some of the other islands, including neighboring Isabela, but is rich in animal life. Much of the plant life consists of thick mangroves along the coastline, which are an excellent home for shorebirds and small fish, which are an important link in the ecosystem.

Fernandina and Isabela are home to the majority of the Galapagos penguin population, and they are commonly spotted on Fernandina’s rocky shores.

The endemic Flightless Cormorant, the world’s only flightless cormorant, is found only in Fernandina, although it occasionally nests in Isabela.

There used to be a variety of Galapagos giant tortoises in Fernandina, but now they are gone. Unlike other extinct Galapagos tortoise species, the Fernandina subspecies did not die out because of humans: the fossil record shows that it died out naturally, mainly due to volcanic activity and a lack of nesting materials and food.

Fernandina is famous in the Galapagos for being the most pristine of the larger islands.

It does not suffer from the invasive introduced species that plague the rest of the islands, such as rats, ants, goats and various plants. In fact, there is a species of rice rat on the island that is endemic: on other islands, native rats have been out-muscled by more aggressive species of introduced rats.

Fernandina is home to a population of Galapagos Land Iguanas. These iguanas make a long journey from the rim of the volcano to the floor of the caldera, where they nest. They are rarely seen by visitors, but can be seen in the National Geographic video “Dragons of the Galapagos”.

The only tourist site in Fernandina is Punta Espinoza, a labyrinth of sandy paths through interesting lava flows. It is known for the colony of hundreds of marine iguanas that live there, as well as a sea lion nursery, several flightless cormorants and the occasional Galapagos falcon.

There are also several tide pools, which are home to a specialized ecosystem and occasionally trap a sea turtle or eel.

The oldest island in the Galapagos is the farthest east, San Cristobal

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