The beak of the finch a story of evolution in our interesting, as well as scientific
The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner Interesting, As Well As ScientificRosemary and Peter Grant and those assisting them have spend twentyyears on Daphne Major, an island in the Galapagos studying naturalselection. They recognize each indivi dual bird on the island, when thereare four hundred at the time of the authors visit, or when there are over athousand. They have observed about twenty generations of finches --continuously. Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwins finchesand come up with a new understanding of life itself.`The Beak of the Finch is a book on evolution which was the recipient ofthe nonfiction Pulitzer Prize. That and the fact that it was only about 300pages clinched my interest. I knew I was embarking on a light and thought-provoking journey.
Jonathan Weiner wrote this book primarily about the work of two scientists:Peter and Rosemary Grant, and their thorough study of evolution aryeffects on finches of the Galapagos archipelago. They spent twenty yearstraveling to the islands, meticulously recording all the necessary statisticsof how the birds had undergone physiological change in order to adapt andsurvive the harsh and ever-changing environment. Their intention asscientists was to witness evolution in progress. The book also included avariety of topics, such as introduction to Darwin and his thought; artificialevolution and other experiments on natural selection done in la bs. But thestar characters are the Darwins finches.Here are some of the observational data that were recorded by the Grantexpeditions.Sudden and enduring changes in rainfall were the primary killers offinches. When drought came, various plants were becoming very rare.Some seeds - which were accessible to most finches during normalseason with adequate amount of rain - started to disappear due to scarcityof water. The only seeds left had shells which were difficult to penetrate.The finches with the right beaks were able to crack open those shells. If afinchs beak was even less than one millimeter smaller than what wasneeded, it died of starvation. During drought, many more malespersevered than females because males were larger. That was in 1977.In 1983 El Nino rolled through the islands. The system brought a hugeflood and a flip happened in natural selection. As opposed to drought, andcontrary to common sense, large birds started to disappear and small oneswere prospering. The results were at first puzzling. Later it was understoodthat during abundant rainfall there were many more small seeds than bigones. Large, evolutionary advanced finches had bigger appetites and werenot content with small nuts. They could not compete with small fincheswhich needed fewer seeds to live. In this case smaller finches multiplied,thus sort of regressing to a simpler time when the whole populations ofthese exotic birds were small in size.But why from time to time do different kinds of finches come to a n ear-extinction only to reappear and prosper. The reason is the diversity of foodand the adaptive capabilities. Different beak requires a different seed.Thats why when the seasonal rains ended, the finches moved apart andspecialized: each one settled in the area with the right kind of seed for itsparticular size and shape of beak. They inadvertently sought efficiency inconsuming nutrition. The wonders of nature!Its a very entertaining book that, while being educational, isntoverbearingly academic. Many people are so engulfed by their hectic livesthat they need a reminder of how interesting the world is outside theirhome or office. This book will definitely show you that.
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