The Galapagos Islands are particularly well known for its famous and endemic Darwin’s finches. Having adapted to various food sources on each island, the finches evolved different shaped and sized beaks, thus giving rise to Charles Darwin’s idea of natural selection. Some finches eat seeds while others feed on insects. There are also Darwin finches that feast on cactus, flowers, and one species that has evolved to even drink the blood of seabirds; these have been aptly named Vampire finches. Two species of finch have been seen to use twigs or cactus spines to extract insect larvae from holes in dead tree branches. All of Darwin’s finches are sparrow-sized.
Drs. Peter and Rosemary Grant, along with their students and colleagues, have been studying the evolution of this incredible group of birds since the late 1970s. Their important work has shown that evolution in Darwin’s finches can occur surprisingly fast, within decades rather than the hundreds to thousands of years as previously thought.