Thursday, June 9, 2016

Darwin's finches

Most people are familiar with Darwin's finches as an example of divergent evolution and how this influenced Darwin. The story behind the finches is this: Darwin went to the Galapagos and he collected some birds. The finches were so different he thought they were from different families (e.g., wrens, finches, and orioles). Back in England, Darwin runs into ornithologist and illustrator extraordinaire (and creationist) John Gould. Gould tells Darwin that the finches are actually all related. Darwin is like "wth Gould."  Some of the details are left off the labels so he can't tie specific location (island) to a specimen. Mind you, Darwin is a novice and recent graduate and in his early 20's so he should get some slack. It's actually the mockingbirds and tortoises that get Darwin thinking. Why should each island have its own species of mockingbird and tortoise?  The rest is evolution and natural selection. The finches come later when thinking about why there is divergence and the different beaks allow different species to exploit different resources. 

On Galapagos our local guides didn't know the different species of finches. I don't blame them - they all look very very similar and they're not trained to ID them. Our guides were very good organizers and knew tons, just not the finches.

Here are some of my best pictures of these little buggers. 

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