Vestiges of the cretaceous just no dinosaurs.

Before the age of mammals. Just reptiles and their close relatives the avian class. The land and the animals lived out in Eden-like existence. Non-paradisal but with a level of fear from predation seemingly absent. (Yes, the seal and sea lions were there, but only on the edge)

Plenty has been written about the Galapagos, what it stands for, Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, the Exploring Expedition, the United States first mission of discovery, collecting specimens that ended up as the seeds of the Smithsonian collection. The birth of a theory, of life transported onto the sterile volcanic peaks rising above the hot spot underneath the Nazca plate. Life that found its way to cling on and then fill the ecological niches as soils and a community of organisms developed. 600 miles or 1000 kilometers from the South American continent. Isolated from interaction. A land where there are no dominant predators.

There are many stories to be told, unraveled in the journey to the Galapagos. Formation. The slow eruption of molten lavas that built up over time to form the islands we visited. Floreana, Genovesa, Mosquero, North Seymour, San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Santa Maria. The Oceanum swirling around these land masses, the nutrient rich waters welling up to feed the abundant sea life. The Avium Aquae – birds adapted to oceans or the Avium terrestris, those birds who depend on dry land to breed and feed. And while all life lives in some ways on the edge there are a few creatures who must share some connection to the ocean with a few who have moved inland.

There is a pecking order, a conflict but seemingly no dominant predator. It is in this petri dish of evolution that the survival of the fittest exist.

It was not until we visited the last island – Santa Cruz where I had that ah ha moment and realized the difference. Not just humans, but cattle, goats and a class of mammals introduced after millions of years of isolation. The “Age of Mammals” the class which came into dominance after the last great extinction with the end of the non-avian dinosaurs. Mammals are a fragile class. Mammals must eat and drink regularly. They cannot sustain the tortuous journey it would take to reach the Galapagos. Only the sea mammals could reach the edge on their own. So, the experiment of evolution was asymmetrical. Just reptiles and their close relatives the birds. The rest were inflicted on the islands with the arrival of ships and man. With the mammals came the weeds, the roughness, the disruption in this garden of Eden. No obvious fear of predation, no flight mechanisms meant that when the intruders, the humans reached the Galapagos they could harvest at will, could change the balance earned by the reptiles and avian characters who had free range.

A world with out mammals. A land of reptiles and avian relatives. It was this observation that I observed and then realized the impact our class has on the fragile planet we call home.

JP 5/31/2020

The Crew
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