Renowned evolutionary biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant have produced landmark studies of the Galápagos 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 Galápagos 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 events.
By following the fates of finches for several generations, 40 Years of Evolution offers unparalleled insights into ecological and evolutionary changes in natural environments.
Peter R. Grant and B. Rosemary Grant are both emeritus professors in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. They are the coauthors of How and Why Species Multiply and coeditors of In Search of the Causes of Evolution (both Princeton).
"For the Grants, evolution isn't a theoretical abstraction. It's gritty and real and immediate and stunningly fast. . . . Most of all, the book is an affirmation of the importance of long-term fieldwork as a way of capturing the true dynamism of evolution."--Joel Achenbach, Princeton Alumni Weekly
"The study described here is truly exceptional. Peter and Rosemary Grant . . . have devoted their careers to the study of the group of birds known as Darwin's finches on the Galapagos archipelago, one of the most isolated and inhospitable places on Earth. But the payoff is that their research furnishes some of the most compelling evidence for natural selection and the origin of species. . . . The Grants' achievement is monumental."--Tim Birkhead, Times Higher Education
"Reading this book is like having an engaging conversation with two of the most prominent and charming field biologists of our time. Come listen to their singular adventure, unprecedented insight, and eyewitness account of evolution in action. A terrific must-read for all students of biology, from enthusiasts to experts."--Hopi E. Hoekstra, Harvard University
"This masterful work summarizes four decades of research on Darwin's finches by the Grants and their many students and collaborators. The book provides an eloquent illustration of how our general understanding of evolution is advanced by a rigorous, sustained focus on a handful of species on a single island."--Joel G. Kingsolver, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"A captivating synthesis of arguably the most important research program in evolutionary biology in the last half century. From classic work on Darwin's finches decades ago to groundbreaking new discoveries, it's all here. A must-read for any student of evolution."--Jonathan Losos, Harvard University
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Peter R. Grant:
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by B. Rosemary Grant: