Renowned evolutionary biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant have
produced landmark studies of the Galapagos finches first made
famous by Charles Darwin. In "How and Why Species Multiply," they
offered a complete evolutionary history of Darwin's finches since
their origin almost three million years ago. Now, in their richly
illustrated new book, " 40 Years of Evolution," the authors turn
their attention to events taking place on a contemporary scale. By
continuously tracking finch populations over a period of four
decades, they uncover the causes and consequences of significant
events leading to evolutionary changes in species.
The authors used a vast and unparalleled range of ecological,
behavioral, and genetic data--including song recordings, DNA
analyses, and feeding and breeding behavior--to measure changes in
finch populations on the small island of Daphne Major in the
Galapagos archipelago. They find that natural selection happens
repeatedly, that finches hybridize and exchange genes rarely, and
that they compete for scarce food in times of drought, with the
remarkable result that the finch populations today differ
significantly in average beak size and shape from those of forty
years ago. The authors' most spectacular discovery is the
initiation and establishment of a new lineage that now behaves as a
new species, differing from others in size, song, and other
characteristics. The authors emphasize the immeasurable value of
continuous long-term studies of natural populations and of critical
opportunities for detecting and understanding rare but significant
By following the fates of finches for several generations, "40
Years of Evolution" offers unparalleled insights into ecological
and evolutionary changes in natural environments.
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