October 23, 2005

Galapagos tortoises unhurt by volcanic lava

QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) - A volcanic eruption on the
Galapagos Islands has sent scorching lava pouring seawards but
giant tortoises which helped inspired the theory of evolution
are safe, island authorities said on Sunday.

The Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island -- the largest
of the Pacific Ocean archipelago which is part of Ecuador --
erupted on Saturday night, the Galapagos National Park said in
a news release.

Slow-moving lava is edging down the mountainside and could
reach the sea in a week's time, but the island's unique fauna
and human inhabitants have not been harmed, the park said.

A visit to the Galapagos by naturalist Charles Darwin in
1835 helped inspire what became the theory of evolution, due to
the differences between the populations of animals such as
giant tortoises and birds on different islands.

Most of the Galapagos is covered by national park.