From Publishers Weekly
Perhaps the most long-standing question in evolutionary biology concerns the origin of species. What are the environmental, evolutionary, genetic, geographical, behavioral or physiological conditions necessary for a species to split into two? Schilthuizen, professor of biology at the University of Malaysia Sabah in Malaysia, does a superb job of reviewing the voluminous scientific literature on this topic, distilling it to a manageable size and presenting it in a form that is both engaging and accessible for the nonspecialist. In addition to a good deal of natural history, from descriptions of the mating behaviors of fire-bellied toads to the differences between left- and right-handled snails, Schilthuizen provides an insider's perspective on both laboratory and field experiments. He analyzes in detail the controversy over whether populations must be geographically isolated from one another for new species to be formed, and he describes, with many interesting examples, the role that sexual selectionfemales choosing specific males with whom to matemight play in the speciation process. By including case studies from a wide range of organismsplants, birds, amphibians, fish and mammalshe demonstrates the breadth and vibrancy of his ideas. Although no technical background is required to grasp Schilthuizen's ideas, there is enough substance to engage those moderately knowledgeable about evolutionary biology. Illus.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Curious about the state of affairs of the origin of species? Schilthuizen informatively surveys the ideas that churn around two basic questions: has science noticed the appearance of a new species, and if it has, how did the species arise? The answer to the former is yes, but answers to the latter, proposing mechanisms of speciation, are less emphatic. For long, the reigning theory, synthesized by Ernst Mayr as allopatric speciation, had natural selection working on geographically isolated populations. Although "king of origins" hill in the 1960s, Mayr's thought seemed incomplete to succeeding field biologists, whose observations and experiments Schilthuizen recounts in lively fashion, thanks to animal stories featuring the cave beetles of France, the apple maggots of the Hudson River valley, the cichlid fishes of Africa, and other critters. The revisionists of Mayr touted sympatric speciation, by which a new species evolves within nonisolated populations in response to several pressures, among which sexual selection ranks high. Schilthuizen's enthusiasm, clarity, and humor ought to grab anyone interested in biology and evolution. Gilbert Taylor
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