Once a refuge for pirates and a supply station for whalers, today the Galapagos Islands are an eldorado for nature lovers and biologists. Probably the most famous biologist of them all, Charles Darwin, made observations in the Galapagos that would later convince him that species can develop through natural selection – a revolutionary insight. Visitors to the special exhibition Galápagos travel from one island to the next via the exhibits, learning about Darwin’s “little world within itself”. They can explore the extraordinary animal and plant world and find out how biologists from the University of Zurich conduct research on the Galapagos Archipelago while pursuing nature conservation.
Endemites: witnesses to evolution
The Galapagos Islands are teeming with species that do not exist anywhere else, so-called endemites. The ancestors of these plants and animals came from the South-American mainland 1,000 kilometers across the sea. Only a few animals made it: some invertebrates, birds and reptiles, very few mammals and no amphibians. In their new home, they adapted to a different diet, climate and habitat. For instance, visitors to the exhibition learn about iguanas that feed on algae on the seabed, finches that peck at seabirds until they bleed or huge giant tortoises.
Tame but still stressed
All visitors are impressed by the how tame the animals on the Galapagos Islands are. Because there were no people, dogs, cats or other predatory mammals there for millions of years, the animals in the archipelago lost their flight instinct in the course of evolution, which had dire consequences for some species. Even though the animals do not run away from humans and land predators, they are still stressed, as is demonstrated to exhibition-goers with a frigate bird, whose heart beats faster and faster the closer they get to him.
Nature conservation and research
The plants and animals introduced and a population boom threaten the unique environment of the Galapagos Islands. Nature conservation and research are tackling this threat, such as by introducing conservation programs for the giant tortoises, rat control measures to protect the Galapagos albatross or resettling the endangered mockingbirds. The latter is a project conducted by biologists from the University of Zurich. To protect the first UNESCO World Heritage natural site successfully, public interest, research and nature conservation are essential. “That’s why – and because the Galapagos Islands are so important in the history of the natural sciences – we are devoting an exhibition to them,” explains Head of the Zoological Museum Marianne Haffner. “Only through a broad understanding of the singularity of the Galapagos Islands will the archipelago survive for generations to come,” adds Curator Lukas Keller. The idea is thus to show special exhibition at other museums and stimulate enthusiasm for the extraordinary world of the Galapagos.
Special exhibition «Galápagos»
December 11, 2012 until September 8, 2013, Tuesday to Friday: 9 am – 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm, closed Monday.
Opening times over the Christmas period:
Dec. 24 and 25: closed
Dec. 26: 10 am – 5 pm
Dec 27 and 28: 9 am – 5 pm
Dec. 29 and 30: 10 am – 5 pm
Dec. 31 and Jan. 1: closed
Family workshop (free) every Sunday from 2 – 4 pm: Galápagos einfach – Reise zu den verwunschenen Inseln with an exciting tour of the special exhibition and twelve research tasks for the whole family.
Group tours on request: firstname.lastname@example.org Guide to the special exhibition: CHF 15 in the museum shop Entrance is free.
Zoologisches Museum der Universität Zürich
Karl Schmid-Strasse 4
Phone +41 44 634 38 38