Air Date: Week of January 5, 1996
Darwin and the Galapagos Islands.
CURWOOD: It isn't often that one person changes the way we see the world, but it does happen. One hundred sixty five years ago, Charles Darwin shipped out as a naturalist on the HMS Beagle to visit the Galapagos Islands. The animals Darwin saw there inspired his theory of evolution and forever changed humanity's vision of itself and its world. The Galapagos lie 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Most of the islands have been preserved and look much as they did in Darwin's day. But human presence has taken its toll. The sea tortoise, for which the islands are named, has been reduced in number from 200,000 in the 1800s to an estimated 15,000 today. Nearly 400 species of plants have been introduced into the Galapagos in the past century, threatening to crowd out the 400 native plant species, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Fishing and development are also forcing rapid changes in the ecosystems which inspired the whole notion of evolution.
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