On September 15, 1835, English naturalist Charles Darwin and the crew of the HMS Beagle arrived in the Galapagos Islands. These volcanic islands are located west of Ecuador, along the Equator in the Pacific Ocean. Darwin traveled there as part of a five-year journey to study plants and animals along the coast of South America.

Darwin collected and documented a dazzling array of species in the Galapagos. He studied these organisms when he returned home. Eventually, Darwin focused his study on his collection of finches, a species of small bird. The finches were very similar, but had beaks of different sizes and shapes. Darwin theorized that the beaks were adaptations that helped each species of finch eat a different type of food, such as seeds, fruits, or insects.

Darwin’s study of the plants and animals of the Galapagos was integral to his theory of natural selection, a part of the larger process of evolution.

Noun

a modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence. An adaptation is passed from generation to generation.

array
Noun

large group.

beak
Noun

hard, protruding jaws of a bird.

Noun

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

document
Verb

to keep track of.

Noun

imaginary line around the Earth, another planet, or star running east-west, 0 degrees latitude.

evolution
Noun

change in heritable traits of a population over time.

Noun

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

integral
Adjective

very important.

journey
Noun

voyage or trip.

naturalist
Noun

person who studies the natural history or natural development of organisms and the environment.

Noun

process by which organisms that are better -adapted to their environments produce more offspring to transmit their genetic characteristics.

theorize
Verb

to formulate and propose a group of ideas to explain a scientific question.

volcanic island
Noun

land formed by a volcano rising from the ocean floor.

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