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).
"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
"In this delightful and informative book, Peter and Rosemary Grant bring readers along on their four-decade voyage of discovery into the lives of Darwin's finches in the Galápagos archipelago. This is a book about evolutionary change and the origin of new species. The Grants' story--about themselves, natural history and scientific inquiry, and birds and speciation--will inspire anyone with an interest in the natural world."--Robert E. Ricklefs, University of Missouri, St. Louis
"This magnificent book is about the most successful field study on evolution ever conducted--the Darwin finch project on the island of Daphne Major. There is no other book or team of researchers that tells similar stories with such fine detail and such a clear eye over an equivalent span of time. Defying comparison, 40 Years of Evolution is one for the ages."--Dolph Schluter, University of British Columbia
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Peter R. Grant:
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by B. Rosemary Grant: