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A paradise for research: islands are like test tubes

The Galápagos Islands are among the best studied archipelagos on earth. It all started with Charles Darwin, who visited the islands in 1835 and was fascinated by their unique flora and fauna. He saw that there were animal species which were closely related but whose various populations differed slightly from island to island. These observations later contributed to his conviction that species can change through “natural selection”, as he called it. This was a revolutionary idea: the theory of evolution. More than a century later, researchers found out, again on Galápagos, how this process works in nature. Teams of researchers in biology and geology are still working on the Galápagos Islands to this day, but this unique natural environment is still far from being exhaustively researched; new species have even been discovered recently. Islands are a mecca for researchers because they show complex interactions in simplified terms, just like test tubes in a lab.