Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Darwin's Footsteps: A Book On The Galapagos Daphne Major Finches

Years ago I read Jonathan Weiner's excellent book The Beak Of The Finch. He describes the work of Peter and Rosemary Grant on the finches of Galapagos Islands with its fertile volcanic landscapes and biodiversity having inspired another aspiring naturalist in the 1830's to great discoveries. The Grants studied for decades evolution of finch populations, observing in them natural selection in action.

Now they have written their own book- 40 Years of Evolution: Darwin's Finches on Daphne Major Island.

Jonathan Weiner writes about it in the New York Times:

They kept up their watch during years of downpours and years of drought — seasons of feast and famine for the finches. And Darwin’s process unfolded before their eyes in intense episodes that illustrated better than anything in the Origin the struggle for existence, and the ways that life adapts and emerges fitter from the struggle.

.. and on the possible beginnings of a distinct lineage -

Big Bird’s lineage has now lasted for 30 years and seven generations. The Grants are cautious about its prospects — “It is highly unlikely that we have witnessed the origin of a long-lasting species, but not impossible,” they write — but other scientists are buzzing.

This is exciting work, the stuff that inspires young students of the subject to push ahead with their own dreams and aspirations. The Grants are both 77 years young now... and still studying their beloved finches.

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