Covering a total of about 8,000 square km, the Galapagos archipelago consists of 21 islands--13 large and six small--and 107 rocks and islets. The Galapagos was formed by volcanic activity, and several volcanoes are still active today.
Charles Darwin arrived on the islands aboard the HMS Beagle in 1935 as part of a Royal Navy expedition. It was there that Darwin performed his observations and collected the samples for his great work on evolution and natural selection, "The Origin of Species."
Due to a lack of natural predators, the Galapagos have a wide variety of animal species. Some interesting exotic animals include Galapagos penguins, the waved albatross, red-footed, blue-footed and masked boobies, and countless species of exotic fish and reptiles.
A wealth of similar plant species throughout the Galapagos are native to a specific location. This provides great models for the study of adaptive radiation (the development of new species from migrating populations). Aside from the many exotic plants such as giant prickly pear and orchids, the islands contain endemic species of cotton, tomato, guava, pepper and passion flower.
Scientists have identified 14 distinct forms of giant tortoise throughout the Galapagos.