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Biology: Principles & Exploration Galapagos Finch Lab Name: __________________________

It may seem curious that of all the animals in the Galapagos, this group of very drab and dull birds
is most closely associated with Darwin's name. He was neither the first to see them (they are
mentioned in passing by Captain James Colnett in 1798) nor did they figure much in his writings
subsequent to the "Voyage of the Beagle". Despite the fact that they intrigued Darwin, they are far
too complex a group of animals for Darwin to have understood. Nevertheless, they played an
important role in helping him recognize the reality of the evolutionary process. The name was first
applied in 1936, and popularized in 1947 by the ornithologist David Lack, who published the first
modern ecological and evolutionary study of the finches. Today Darwin's finches are the subject of
intense study, and they are revealing much about the evolutionary process.

 Darwin's finches share similar size, coloration, and habits. Their salient difference is in the
size and shape of their beak. However, beak shapes can be very variable, and the size and
shape in one individual can overlap into the range of another species. There are presently 14
species of birds recognized as Darwin's finches - 13 in the Galapagos, and one on Cocos
Island.
 Some students wonder why we need to worry about naming the finches, asking instead
“why can't we just enjoy them for what they are”? There is power in a name; to know the
name is to understand the named. This is especially so in that branch of biology known as
taxonomy. The taxonomist not only applies a name to an organism, but, by ranking those
organisms into hierarchies of names, attempts to portray evolutionary relationships. Since
1758, taxonomists have used the system of Linnaeus to organize the living world. Linnaeus
gave each organism a binomial: genus and species, which are ranked in higher and higher
groupings:

Kingdom A group of related phyla


Phylum A group of related classes
Class A group of related families
Order A group of related genera
Genus A group of related species
Species An individual type of organism. Genus and species names are always
italicized with the species name in lower case lettering

It should be clear from this table that the only "real" entity is the species. The higher groupings are
merely an assessment of how species are thought to be related to other species, and different
taxonomists may very well disagree. Among the Darwin's finches, there is general agreement as to
the existence of 13 Galapagos species, although there may be one or two more or one or two less,
depending on how one assesses several unusual populations. There is disagreement, however,
about how those 13 species are organized into genera. Traditionally, the finches are divided into
four groups, each representing a single genus: the ground finches (Geospiza), the tree finches
(Camarhynchus), the warbler finch (Certhidea) and the Cocos finch (Pinaroloxias). As a group, the
tree finches are more heterogeneous than the ground finches and it is current practice to subdivide
the tree finches into three genera: Camarhynchus (the tree finches), Platyspiza (the vegetarian
finch) and Cactospiza (the woodpecker and mangrove finches). On the other hand, finch expert
David Steadman feels that splitting the finches into six genera emphasizes their differences and
suggests that all of the finches should be united as 14 species in the singe genus Geospiza to
emphasize their similarities!! But whether you split them into six genera or lump them into one,
everybody pretty much agrees on the same 14 species. The only real entity is the species. The table
on the next page gives the genus and species names for all of the finches:

Activity Series Dr. Witty 1


Biology: Principles & Exploration Galapagos Finch Lab Name: __________________________
Identification of finches can be extremely intimidating. Pictured below are eleven of
the fourteen “Darwin” Finches.

Activity Series Dr. Witty 2


Biology: Principles & Exploration Galapagos Finch Lab Name: __________________________

The table below shows the distribution on the Galapagos Islands.

Modified from "A Field Guide to the Birds of Galapagos"


If we believe that two species share a common ancestor, then as one traces the
species back in time, they should become closer and closer in form. The
definition of the term "species" includes the presence of a fertility barrier
between individuals of different species. Our current understanding of evolution
is that new species are born when the population of the ancestor species is split.
Once the gene pool is separated, the two populations may be subject to different
natural selection pressures, and hence, evolve in separate ways. A glance at the
table of Distribution of Darwin Finches on Visitor Islands shows that similar
finches, such as the cactus finch and the large cactus finch do not coexist on the
same islands. The large cactus finch shows what can happen in the presence and
absence of a competitor species.

Activity Series Dr. Witty 3


Biology: Principles & Exploration Galapagos Finch Lab Name: __________________________
Give three different reasons as to how does beak shape/size has an impact on the finch getting the
necessary amount of food to sustain life.
1.)

2.)

3.)
Give two different reasons besides beak shape/size and food size that explains the difficulty in obtaining
the necessary amount of food to sustain life in each habitat. (A specific reason may be repeated only twice.)
Prairie Woodland Lake

Farmland Ground Cover Swamp

Identify strategies that could be used to obtain as much food as possible from each habitat.
Prairie Woodland Lake

Farmland Ground Cover Swamp

Activity Series Dr. Witty 4


Biology: Principles & Exploration Galapagos Finch Lab Name: __________________________

DATA TABLE: Total Number and Type of Food Collected


Prairie Habitat
Beak Type/ Food Type Sunflower Seeds Soft Insects Hard Insects
Rice Corn Nuts
Tweezer Beak
Clothes Pin Beak
Spoon Beak
Plier Beak

Woodland Habitat
Beak Type/ Food Type Sunflower Seeds Soft Insects Hard Insects
Rice Corn Nuts
Tweezer Beak
Clothes Pin Beak
Spoon Beak
Plier Beak

Lake Habitat
Beak Type/ Food Type Sunflower Seeds Soft Insects Hard Insects
Rice Corn Nuts
Tweezer Beak
Clothes Pin Beak
Spoon Beak
Plier Beak

Farmland Habitat
Beak Type/ Food Type Sunflower Seeds Soft Insects Hard Insects
Rice Corn Nuts
Tweezer Beak
Clothes Pin Beak
Spoon Beak
Plier Beak

Ground Cover Habitat


Beak Type/ Food Type Sunflower Seeds Soft Insects Hard Insects
Rice Corn Nuts
Tweezer Beak
Clothes Pin Beak
Spoon Beak
Plier Beak

Swamp Habitat
Beak Type/ Food Type Sunflower Seeds Soft Insects Hard Insects
Rice Corn Nuts
Tweezer Beak
Clothes Pin Beak
Spoon Beak
Plier Beak
Activity Series Dr. Witty 5
Biology: Principles & Exploration Galapagos Finch Lab Name: __________________________
Convert all of the food collected from each beak type into total number of calories
obtained by using the following information. Enter those values in the data table.
Rice = 5 calories Almonds = 10 calories Corn = 2 calories Insects = 15 calories Seeds = 8 calories

DATA TABLE: Caloric Intake Values for Each Habitat


Tweezer Beak
Prairie Woodland Lake Farmland Ground Cover Swamp
Rice
Nuts
Corn
Insects
Seeds
Total

Clothes Pin Beak


Prairie Woodland Lake Farmland Ground Cover Swamp
Rice
Nuts
Corn
Insects
Seeds
Total

Spoon Beak
Prairie Woodland Lake Farmland Ground Cover Swamp
Rice
Nuts
Corn
Insects
Seeds
Total

Pliers Beak
Prairie Woodland Lake Farmland Ground Cover Swamp
Rice
Nuts
Corn
Insects
Seeds
Total

Activity Series Dr. Witty 6


Biology: Principles & Exploration Galapagos Finch Lab Name: __________________________
Construct a bar graph that demonstrates the total amount of calories each type of “bird”
was able to obtain in each habitat. Color-code each habitat as:
Green = prairie Brown = woodland Blue = Lake
Yellow = farmland Red = ground cover Black = swamp

The information below is the total number of calories that each “bird” needed to survive:
Tweezer Beak = 50 calories Clothes Pin Beak = 100 calories Spoon Beak = 200 calories Pliers Beak = 100 calories

Which of your birds survived in each habitat?

How do your findings compare to the data table and graph of the class results?

How do your findings compare to the predictions you made in prelab?

Activity Series Dr. Witty 7