Science as Inquiry

  • Ability to do scientific inquiry (5-8, 9-12)
  • Understanding of scientific inquiry (5-8, 9-12)

    Life Science

  • Diversity and adaptations of organisms (5-8)
  • Biological evolution (9-12)
  • The Galapagos Islands, a province of the Republic of Ecuador and lying in the Pacific about 1000 km off its coast, evoke feelings of biological richness and mystery. The diversity of species found there and the evolutionary lessons learned from them make the islands a place of particular intrigue to many. As a preview to a trip you might take there yourself, the IMAX film, "Galapagos", allows you such a close look that you are virtually transported to one of the most unique environments on Earth.

    The land comprising the Galapagos Islands is almost entirely National Park land (97%), and the Galapagos Marine Resources Reserve was established to protect the waters of the archipelago. The flora and fauna are dazzling, and many species found there are endemic, meaning that they are only found there. Charles Darwin was intrigued by the fact that some species had evolved into many distinct forms on different islands. For example, there are 14 different species of giant tortoise and 13 different species of small, brownish finches. They are all adapted to a range of different foods. This observation led Charles Darwin to propose the concept of evolution by natural selection, an extremely important theory in the history of science.

    Photos: Terri Kirby Hathaway

    The Galapagos marine environment is fascinating. Two ocean currents are responsible for two groups of marine species in Galapagos, warm equatorial water species and colder water species. Learn more about the biogeography of the islands from the Charles Darwin Foundation web site (click on Galapagos Islands). Which region of the islands is warmer: the North or the West? What types of marine species are found in each area? The islands are the home of the only penguin living on the Equator. Seabirds and marine iguanas also make their home there, as do sea lions, fur seals, whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. In addition, over 400 species of fish have been catalogued from the rich ocean waters surrounding the islands.

    The researchers involved in the filming of the IMAX movie may even add a few more species to the list. Although the movie was created for entertainment purposes, scientific studies were being conducted in the process. The researchers may have identified more than a dozen previously unknown marine species during their 14 weeks on the islands!

    Data Exercise

    Pretend you're an explorer (either in Darwin's days or modern days) documenting a newly discovered fish species. Using the FishBase Database's list of marine/brackish fishes of the Galapagos Islands, choose a fish, research it, and present it. To access this list:

    Exhibit a picture of your fish for the class, along with your journal entry documenting its discovery. Describe the fish's characteristics (i.e. size, color, features), habitat, behavior, and any other interesting information you have gathered from your observations. As a group discussion, consider how many years of observation, comparison, and documentation are required to gain an understanding of the natural history of an area.

    You may want to consider taking your class to see the IMAX film, "Galapagos". A Teachers Resource Guide is provided free of charge to educators who book a class visit to an IMAX theatre. You can also download an excerpt from a Teacher's Guide to Galapagos from the IMAX web site (click on Education). These Teacher's Guides were created by the National Science Teachers Association with funding from the National Science Foundation.

    For more resources, be sure to visit the Bridge's Biodiversity & Evolution page. If you have questions about the Data Tip of the Month or have suggestions for a future data tip, contact Laura Rose, Bridge Data Project Manager.

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