In this book, you will find discussions (and checklists) of the native and endemic organisms you'll see, especially the iconic ones such as penguins, land and marine iguanas, finches, giant tortoises, and albatrosses (see color images). However, we have not described all of the organisms on the islands-after all, there are more than 600 species of lichens and 2,9OO species of marine organisms, not to mention the more than 50 families, 300 genera, and 370 species of endemic and native beetles. Similarly, we discuss many, but not all, of the most troublesome introduced species (at last count, there were more than 1,400 such species). We have focused on the native and endemic "stars" of Galápagos that fill tourists' must-see lists.
Although our book emphasizes evolution, we have also addressed several other topics, for evolution cannot be understood without a corresponding understanding of its context: namely, the geology, climate, and historical impact of humans on the ecosystem. This is why you will find discussions of the islands' geology, weather, trails, and Visitor Sites in this book.
We also wrote this book to emphasize the importance of preserving Galápagos, as well as to help readers understand the challenges facing the islands.
To ensure accuracy and consistency, the information in this book was derived from visiting the islands more than 30 times over many years; talking with numerous Galápagos National Park Service guides, boat captains, boat crews, school teachers and other residents of Galápagos, and former prisoners at the Wall of Tears penal colony; documenting the GPS coordinates of more than 350 sites, usually with two independent GNPS units (Appendix 1); studying documents at a variety of libraries, research stations, and related locations such as GNPS, Charles Darwin Research Station, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and Instituto Oceanografico de la Armada; being on the bridge with boat captains in the most challenging conditions and regions of the islands (Appendix 2); and, when necessary, hiking, scuba diving, and interviewing local residents to resolve controversies (e.g., the exact location of Jessica; see Chapter 11).