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How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin's Finches [Hardcover]

Peter R. Grant , B. Rosemary Grant

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Book Description

Oct. 22 2007 Princeton Series in Evolutionary Biology

Charles Darwin's experiences in the Galápagos Islands in 1835 helped to guide his thoughts toward a revolutionary theory: that species were not fixed but diversified from their ancestors over many generations, and that the driving mechanism of evolutionary change was natural selection. In this concise, accessible book, Peter and Rosemary Grant explain what we have learned about the origin and evolution of new species through the study of the finches made famous by that great scientist: Darwin's finches.

Drawing upon their unique observations of finch evolution over a thirty-four-year period, the Grants trace the evolutionary history of fourteen different species from a shared ancestor three million years ago. They show how repeated cycles of speciation involved adaptive change through natural selection on beak size and shape, and divergence in songs. They explain other factors that drive finch evolution, including geographical isolation, which has kept the Galápagos relatively free of competitors and predators; climate change and an increase in the number of islands over the last three million years, which enhanced opportunities for speciation; and flexibility in the early learning of feeding skills, which helped species to exploit new food resources. Throughout, the Grants show how the laboratory tools of developmental biology and molecular genetics can be combined with observations and experiments on birds in the field to gain deeper insights into why the world is so biologically rich and diverse.

Written by two preeminent evolutionary biologists, How and Why Species Multiply helps to answer fundamental questions about evolution--in the Galápagos and throughout the world.


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"One of the most compelling documentations of the operation of natural selection. In this book, the Grants aim to capture the key insights provided by Darwin's finches into mechanisms of adaptation and speciation generally. They succeed in making a complex topic accessible without losing the excitement inherent in tackling a difficult problem. There is enough depth to stimulate serious students of evolutionary biology, enough explanation for general readers and an approachable style that will please both."--Roger Butlin, Times Higher Education

"This Princeton-based couple presents their own accessible summary of their life's research in How and Why Species Multiply. The authors explain the scientific hypotheses involved...with admirable clarity...yet the book's real strength is not theory but data. The Grants' account makes exciting and lucid reading. Among those who should take note are doubters of 'old-fashioned' research methods who marvel at the prospects of genomics in the lab and wonder what use bird bands have in modern science."--Hanna Kokko, Science

"Distilled into 200 pages, this is the life's work of two of evolutionary biology's greatest advocates, Peter and Rosemary Grant. In this book they meld insights from geography, behaviour, ecology and genetics to paint a complex but compelling picture of the evolutionary process. [A] must-have primer for any biology student."--Henry Nicholls, New Scientist

"The authors' assertion that 'speciation is a process and not an event,' comes across clearly in this concise and accessible tale of 3 million years of finch evolution."--Science News

"The book illustrates how laboratory work, particularly in developmental biology and molecular genetics, can be combined effectively with observations and experimental work in the field."--J. S. Schwartz, emeritus, CUNY College of Staten Island, for CHOICE

"This book presents a succinct and most readable summary of one of the most important contemporary field experiments in evolution and adaptive radiation. It should be basic reading for any biologist."--Ghillean Prance, Biologist

"[T]he book is authoritative, well prepared and edited . . . and attractive. The Grants have provide and excellent third part for the Darwin's finch trilogy, and this volume should serve admirably as a summary of the knowledge that they have accumulated."--A. Townsend Peterson, Quarterly Review of Biology

"How and Why Species Multiply is so impressive and such a stimulating read for two primary reasons, the first being the data presented throughout the work. Rarely do we have such detailed data on any natural system and the book draws great strength from this. The second reason is the commanding role given to ecological interactions in explaining the evolutionary dynamics of Darwins finches."--Utku Perktas, Ibis

"The book is valuable as a condensed version of the huge amount of fine work the authors have done on the finches. It should be accessible to scientists and informed lay audiences alike. The theory and ecological aspects are very compelling."--Robert M. Zink, Bioscience

From the Inside Flap

"I really enjoyed this book. It is a splendid introduction both to the finches and to radiation on islands. The authors' statement that 'Speciation is a process and not an event' should become one of the most famous quotes in evolutionary biology."--John A. Endler, University of California, Santa Barbara

"A brilliant synthesis. The authors have written a concise summary of current understanding of one of the classic case studies of evolutionary diversification, Darwin's finches of the Galpagos. I can think of no parallel to this work. This book will be an inspiration to students. The Grants' love of the subject and the research comes through clearly."--Jonathan B. Losos, Harvard University

"This is a book that summarizes decades of research on Darwin's finches and integrates it into a very accessible synthesis. What really distinguishes the book, of course, is the authority of the authors, who have lived with these birds for many years and have unparalleled familiarity with them. Readers will benefit enormously from the scholarship in this book."--David B. Wake, University of California, Berkeley


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evolution Dec 14 2007
By Calochortus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This makes a nice book to read along with Beak of the finch, a more popularized treatment of the same topic and Pulitzer Prize winner from a few years ago. In some ways the Beak book does a better job on the same material, since it includes fascinating personal information on the Grants and their quest, which is entirely absent from this more scholarly tome. Even so the Grants have made a noble effort to write a readable yet serious and detailed treatise on their life's work that would be accessible to an intelligent layman. Give the complexity and uncertainty of reconstructing the finch phylogeny and ecological history of bygone eras in the Galapagos, they have done an admirable job. The Grants make every effort, with a strong structure designed to get across their main ideas. Introductions, careful descriptions largely free of jargon, and nice summaries for each chapter, then a summary chapter at the end.

The most surprising and disappointing feature of the book is the treatment of the color plates. The photos themselves are mostly excellent, taken from the vast reservoir the Grants have amassed for over 30 years. They show the beaks of the finches like no one else ever has. But the tiny size of the photos is quite remarkable. Some measure only an inch or two high and not much wider. Most are virtually impossible to appreciate. What a shame.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent March 30 2008
By R. Albin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This concise and well written book is the distillation of over 30 years of landmark work on natural selection and speciation in the famous Darwin's finch radiation of the Galapagos islands. This research project generated dozens of important papers and 2 prior, thick scholarly monographs. The Grants now present a clear and thoughtful digest of their immense amount of work. The Grants present their work as a test and exploration of the major model of speciation, the allopatric model articulated by the late Ernst Mayr. Using painstaking longitudinal study of Galapagos finch populations and modern genetics techniques, the Grants fused traditional field biology with modern laboratory biology in a particularly illuminating manner. Since evaluating the allopatric speciation model requires a good deal of inference of past events, much of the work and much of the explication in this book is devoted to careful logical analysis of the predicted consequences of the model and evaluating the model by comparing these predictions with the actual distribution and characters of Galapagos finch species. The Grants' longitudinal dataset gave them also the opportunity to actually witness and characterize some features, such as initial colonization events and natural selection in action, predicted by the model. The result is largely a vindication of the model. The Grants found some particularly interesting and to me surprising features, such as the potential importance of hybridization and introgression for generating genetic diversity. The systematic analysis of several features of evolution make this set of studies a classic in the literature. This book gives a nice idea not only of the evolutionary processes that are its subject but also of the difficult experiments needed to study these processes.
This book is written and illustrated quite well. It is pitched for a general scientific audience and is easily understandable by anyone with knowledge of basic biology. My only complaint, and it is minor, is that the publisher put all the color plates in the middle of the book. Some of the plates could have been larger.
This book deserves a wide readership.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making How and Why Species Multiply clearer Aug. 2 2008
By Paul Daniel Picard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Grants have written an excellent, direct, and clearly description of the formation of new species from their unique vantage point as long time researchers. They use their 30+ years of experience with Galapagos finches to great advantage by including their data and data analysis to illustrate the key features of speciation. A wonderful starting point for any serious student of evolution. Also a great way to discover how important the Galapagos islands still are for our understanding of that great "mystery of mysteries."
5.0 out of 5 stars fundamental to biology students Aug. 27 2013
By Andres Angulo Rubiano - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I begin to read this book , all lessons and concepts in evolutionary biology in the other books of evolution (Futuyma for example) take sense and were more clear and sounding, and this is possible when you have in front an exceptional research program that was conducted in large spatial and temporal scales that allow make a strong tests of critical assumptions and predictions of the evolutionary theory. It is the key and the reasons for why I think that this book is magic and everyone interested not only in evolution should read this book (with some others for example Jonathan Losos book in caribbean Anolis) . The unparalleled experience of the grants and your dedication in the details in the measurement of the critical variables, the way they show the importance of the experimental design not only in the laboratories if not also in the natural laboratories like the Galapagos islands, and your deep and wide knowledge in evolutionary biology discipline and the gaps that remain it, It s a strong reason to recommend this book. The Grants begins with the historical background and the process that give rise to seminal ideas in evolution and the ways that pioneers like David Lack used to understand the role of the ecology in the evolutionary process. The coherent order and structure of the chapters its a good approach to understand the role played by model organisms as the darwin finches in our undertanding in diverse components of evolution like adaptative radiations , speciation, character displacement, phylogenetic methods, microevolutionary forces, the role of the geography and contigency and the utility to merge both the empirical , experimental and theoretical approaches to test critically the theory in a exceptional (if we compare with land-masses) geographical settlement like Galapagos Islands and others islands alike. This marvelous coverage of all this topics with the Grants research, In my opinion its no just a excelent reference to profesionals in ecology and evolution ,if not also a great opportunity to socialize and expand in a wide audience how and why species arise and why the science is a fundamental driver to answer this questions, important questions in our search to find meaning to our own existence...
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking new information March 25 2013
By Dr. Tom English - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The detailed studies of Darwin's Finches shows that Darwin's "natural selection" model is inadequate to account for the rapid complex changes that species undergo in response to environmental changes. Peter & Rosemary Grant conclusively demopnstrate that major changes do occur within a single generation.
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