When Charles Darwin visited the Azores islands in the 19th Century, the birds he observed were familiar to him. However, if he had travelled there 500 years before, he would have found an ornithofauna as particular as that of the Galápagos. The recent discovery in these Portuguese islands and in Madeira of five extinct species of rail, which lost the ability to fly due to having evolved on islands, confirms how fragile they are in the face of changes to their habitat like the ones that must have occurred after the first visits by humans over 500 years ago.
Pieces of sediment from the Cretaceous period encased in lava floated to the surface with the underwater eruption of El Hierro in 2011, bringing scientists valuable data on the islands’ ocean floor. The analysis of the materials matches the origin of the Canary Islands archipelago to the model of how Hawaii was formed and confirms that the oldest islands are found to the east and the youngest to the west.