Diagram of Darwin’s Finches

Table of Contents:

What are Darwin’s Finches?

Charles Darwin observed a group of small sparrow-like black birds with strong, short beaks that are known today as Darwin’s finches. These finches varied on different islands, but they were closely related to one another. He observed those finches and concluded that they came from an ancestral stock that had previously migrated from the mainland to the volcanic islands and had undergone profound changes under the different conditions of the individual island.

Here, let’s look at the finches that he observed on the Galapagos islands that once inhabited the South American mainland.

Diagram of Darwin’s Finches

Darwin's finches diagram

About Darwin’s Finches

These finches belong to the largest family of passerine birds called the Fringillidae. These birds show a remarkable diversification in their beak based on their chief food. Out of the 14 finches observed by Darwin, 13 were from the Galapagos island, and one was from the Cocos island.

Bird (Scientific name)

Type of Food

Descriptive Design

Geospiza magnirostris

Seeds and nuts

Large ground finch

Geospiza fuliginosa

Seeds, flower buds and young leaves

Small ground finch

Geospiza fortis

Seeds, flower buds and young leaves

Medium ground finch

Geospiza difficilis

Primarily Seeds

Sharp-beaked ground finch

Geospiza scandens

Cactus (Opuntia cacti)

Cactus ground finch

Geospiza conirostris

Cactus (Opuntia cacti)

Large cactus ground finch

Platyspiza crassirostris

Plants (flowers, buds, leaves and fruits)

Vegetarian tree finch

Camarhynchus psittacula

Insects

Large insectivorous tree finch

Camarhynchus parvulus

Insects

Small insectivorous tree finch

Camarhynchus pauper

Insects

Medium insectivorous tree finch

Camarhynchus heliobates

Insects and larvae in mangrove

Mangrove finch

Camarhynchus pallidus

Insects (with the help of tools)

Woodpecker finch

Certhidea olivacea

Insects

Warbler finch

Pinaroloxias inornata

Insects

Cocos finch

These finches evolved from a common ancestor to have different beaks well-suited for different types of food they feed on. Usually, long and pointed beaks are more fitted for seed and cactus feeders. Even some short-beaked finches tear up the base of the cactus and feed on its pulp. Most finches that feed on seeds on the ground (ground finches) have short and stout beaks. Slender and sharp beaks are common in insect-eating finches. This adaptation helps them occupy and survive in different niches. Most of them evolved from regular seed-eating finches to insectivorous and plant-eating finches. The process by which they successfully evolved and radiated to different habitats is termed as adaptive radiation.

Darwin speculated that these sparrow-like birds came to the Galapagos by the wind. Thereafter, evolution took place, leading to different groups based on their different diets. At present, these finches are considered as emblems of evolution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Charles Darwin?

Charles Darwin was a biologist, naturalist and geologist who significantly contributed to the field of evolutionary biology. Darwin’s evolutionary theory of natural selection gave a more rational explanation of the formation of new species. As per natural selection, various species originated from a single species as a result of adaptation to the changing environment.

What do Darwin’s finches interpret?

The different geographical landscapes in the Galapagos Islands have promoted the diversification of finches on the same island. All of the finches evolved from an original seed-eating form. They must have radiated from the common ancestor and undergone adaptive changes, especially in the type of beak. Thus, they gradually became vegetarians and also insectivorous.

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