Genetics and Evolution

What is the significance of Darwin’s finches?

In his studies on the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin observed patterns in animals and plants that suggested to him that species changed over time to produce new species. Darwin collected several species of finches. The species were all similar, but each had developed beaks and bills specialized to catch food in a different way. Some species had heavy bills for cracking open tough seeds. Others had slender bills for catching insects. One species used twigs to probe for insects in tree cavities. All the species resembled one species of South American finch. In fact, all the plants and animals of the Galapagos Islands were similar to those of the nearby (600 miles/1,000 kilometers away) coast of South America. Darwin felt that the simplest explanation for this similarity was that a few species of plants and animals from South America must have migrated to the Galapagos Islands. These few plants and animals then changed during the years they lived in their new home, giving rise to many new species. Evolutionary theory proposes that species change over time in response to environmental challenges.


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