Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Tristan. Tristan Wonders, “Why are the galapagos islands?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Tristan!

Ahoy! Climb aboard the S.S. Wonderopolis as we set sail for the Galápagos Islands. We’re excited for today’s trip to a special place full of wildlife!

Exactly where are we headed, though? The Galápagos Islands sit near the equator in the Pacific Ocean. They are a province of Ecuador and lay about 600 miles west of the nation’s coast. The islands are a national park and a biological marine reserve.

The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago. That's a group or cluster of islands. The group is made up of 15 main islands, 3 small islands, and over 100 rocks and tiny islands. Altogether, there are 3,000 square miles of land. The islands are spread over 17,000 square miles of ocean!

Compared to much of Earth, the Galápagos Islands are fairly young. In fact, active volcanoes are still adding to the youngest islands in the group.

About 25,000 people live in the Galápagos Islands. They’re not the only residents, though. The islands are known for the wildlife that calls them home.

The Galápagos Islands are home to a large number of unique species. That’s largely thanks to the small numbers of natural predators and humans who live there. What animals can you find on these islands? Marine iguanas, land iguanas, lava lizards, geckos, and snakes, just to name a few!

Many types of birds live on the islands, too. One example is Darwin’s finches, named after Charles Darwin. He was a famous scientist who studied the wildlife of the islands. Other birds found only on the islands include special types of hawks, doves, flycatchers, rails, and mockingbirds.

Many interesting sea birds also live on the Galápagos Islands. This includes the flightless cormorant, the waved albatross, and the blue-footed booby. The islands are also home to the only penguin species that lives in tropical waters.

Sea lions, fur seals, dolphins, and whales also live in the islands. However, perhaps the most famous resident is the giant tortoise. The islands were actually named after this animal. Galápago means tortoise in Spanish.

Giant Galápagos tortoises are the largest tortoises in the world. The largest one ever measured was over five feet long. It weighed over 500 pounds! These giants can live to be over 100 years old.

Unfortunately, they’re also endangered. Scientists have been working hard to protect the giant tortoises. While many subspecies have made a comeback, these animals are still at-risk. Today, it’s unclear how many are still alive in the wild.

Do you know anyone who lives in the Galápagos Islands? Have you ever been there? If not, the islands are beautiful places to visit. Lucky tourists might even catch a glimpse of the giant tortoise!

Standards: NGSS.LS2.C, NGSSLS4.C, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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