The beak of the finch: a story of evolution in our time

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Vintage Books, May 30, 1995 - Fiction - 332 pages
213 Reviews
The Beak of the Finch tells the story of two Princeton University scientists - evolutionary biologists - engaged in an extraordinary investigation. They are watching, and recording, evolution as it is occurring - now - among the very species of Galapagos finches that inspired Darwin's early musings on the origin of species. They are studying the evolutionary process not through the cryptic medium of fossils but in real time, in the wild, in the flesh. The finches that Darwin took from Galapagos at the time of his voyage on the Beagle led to his first veiled hints about his revolutionary theory. But Darwin himself never saw evolution as Peter and Rosemary Grant have been seeing it - in the act of happening. For more than twenty years they have been monitoring generation after generation of finches on the island of Daphne Major - measuring, weighing, observing, tracking, analyzing on computers their struggle for existence. We see the Grants at work on the island among the thousands of living, nesting, hatching, growing birds whose world and lives are the Grants' primary laboratory. We explore the special circumstances that make the Galapagos archipelago a paradise for evolutionary research: an isolated population of birds that cannot easily fly away and mate with other populations, islands that are the tips of young volcanoes and thus still rapidly evolving as does the life that they support, a food supply changing radically in response to radical variations of climate - so that in a brief span of time the Grants can see the beak of the finch adapt. And we watch the Grants' team observe evolution at a level that was totally inaccessible to Darwin: the molecular level, as the DNA in theblood samples taken from the birds reveals evolutionary change. Here, brilliantly and lucidly recounted - with important implications for our own day, when man's alterations of the environment are speeding the rate of evolutionary changes - is a scientific enterprise in the grand m

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well researched and well written. - Goodreads
The scale of the the Grant's research is staggering. - Goodreads
Some of the best science writing I've ever read. - Goodreads
Evolution and natural selection ... interesting... - Goodreads
Excellent insights into Darwin and evolution. - Goodreads
It was not, however, exactly a page turner. - Goodreads
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I have never doubted evolution as a principle for our existence as a species so this book was approached as entertainment and it was very entertaining. What really set my mind thinking was how dangerous those who deny evolution can be! Farmers who reject evolution use pesticides and fertilizers that essentially make 'super bugs' and yet the farmers themselves deny that their actions could have any impact on evolution of a bug species! Horrifying the consequences of dogmatic belief in Bronze Age mythology. 

Review: The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

User Review  - Jackie - Goodreads

I read this in the 1990's and it is a great book about the Galapagos, Darwin and evolution. Read full review



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About the author (1995)

Jonathan Weiner, formerly a writer and editor for The Sciences, is the author of Planet Earth and The Next One Hundred Years.  He lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with his wife and their two sons.