Thursday, October 28, 2010

Five best books on animal survival

Bernd Heinrich is a renowned naturalist and emeritus professor of biology at the University of Vermont. His new book is The Nesting Season: Cuckoos, Cuckolds, and the Invention of Monogamy.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of book about animal survival. One title on the list:
The Beak of the Finch
by Jonathan Weiner (1994)

Darwin made the Gal├ípagos finches famous, but biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant and their graduate students deepened our understanding of how these small birds have survived and adapted across the centuries. Darwin supposed that the various kinds of finches, with their varying beaks and body sizes, came from diverse genetic backgrounds. But he later concluded that the finches were closely related and had thus likely evolved from a common stock. The Grants—working for three decades on the islands—bolstered Darwin's insight that species are not immutable, as had been thought. One potential problem with Darwin's theory had been that species appeared to be largely static, but the Grants succeeded in showing that evolution can be very rapid—beak shapes could change from year to year in response to, say, heightened mortality rates caused by food scarcity. Evidence of speedy adaptation has added meaning today as we witness insects becoming resistant to insecticides and bacteria surviving despite the most potent antibiotics.
Read about another book on the list.

Read Bernd Heinrich's answer to the question: Can penguins really feel love?

--Marshal Zeringue