What Did Charles Darwin Discover

What did Charles Darwin discover when he sailed on the HMS Beagle? Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection are significant because they have shaped our views of natural history, the categorization of plants and animal species and the foundation of the study of genetics. It all started when Darwin boarded a ship in 1831.

The Path Of The HMS Beagle 
The survey trip of the HMS Beagle took Darwin from England, down the coast of Africa, across the Atlantic Ocean to South America, down the Eastern coast of South America, down around the Southern-most tip of South America and back up the Western coast of South America. They sailed across the Pacific Ocean to the Southern coast of Australia, across to the Southern tip of Africa, and then back up the African coast and back to England.

Darwin's Discoveries
During this amazing voyage, Darwin made discoveries that later helped him build the foundations for the theories and concepts outlined in his many books and papers. Some of his discoveries may not seem profound in isolation, but they were important once combined with other observations. For example, Darwin found that cuttlefish in tidal pools in the Cape Verde Islands could change colors at will.

He also found a layer of shells 45 feet above sea level in Santiago. This geological find made Darwin wonder how the level of shells-which were obviously once under sea level but were now far above sea level-got there. At the time, the idea of a slowly changing earth was new. This discovery became one of the impetuses for Darwin's theory of shifting continental shelves and sinking ocean floors.

All along the trip, Darwin collected fossils and specimens of plants and animals. However, it wasn't until Darwin hit the Falkland Islands that he realized how different some of his specimens were from others and understood how significant a comparative study of these fossils and specimens would be. His consequential comparative studies resulted in the basis of his theories on the capacity of species to adapt to specific environments.

Putting It All Together
While in Punta Alta, Darwin discovered a fossil unlike any fossil he'd ever seen before. The fossil was unlike any living creature he was aware of, and the fossil was located in a layer of rock positioned under a layer of seashells, much like the layer he'd discovered in Santiago. This led Darwin to consider the idea that perhaps this creature was now extinct and made him start to consider the possibility of environmental changes and the impact of environmental changes on species adaptations.

Later, after collecting fossils in both South America and Africa, Darwin began to see that some of the fossils were of creatures that were now extinct or that had evolved into distinctly different creatures. These evolutions would be directly related to obvious changes in climate and environment.

When Charles Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle, he did not know what he would encounter while charting and mapping the route and the discoveries found while on the trip, nor did he have any idea how much his discoveries would impact the future of science. 

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