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For Further Reading

Darwin, C. R. 1859. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory

Haldane, J. B. S. 1932. The Causes of Evolution. Longman: UK.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory


*Long, John A. 1995. The Rise of Fishes: 500 Million Years of Evolution. John Hopkins University Press: MD

This lavish overview of the evolution of fishes is not the most detailed but its illustrations and photographs give a rich sense of the evidence on which our understanding of fish evolution is based. It makes a highly readable reference for students and a terrific desk reference for instructors called upon to teach aspects of fish evolution.

Reference for: Chapter 12, Spotlight 12.1

*Raup, David. 1991. Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? W.W. Norton: NY

This “little” book summarizes the evidence for five major extinctions in the geologic records and their causes. It’s a highly readable and engaging account that will quickly bring the reader up to date on this fascinating topic.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory


*Stott, Rebecca. 2003. Darwin and the Barnacle: The Story of One Tiny Creature and History’s Most Spectacular Scientific Breakthrough. Norton: NY

This book brings to the forefront Darwin’s painstaking and highly important work on barnacles. It might be argued that Darwin formulated his ideas about evolution and natural selection from studying barnacles. Although this is a “storybook”, in the sense that it weaves a narrative about Darwin’s barnacle work, it does illuminate this important and little known work in an engaging and instructive manner.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory

*Carroll, Sean B. 2006. The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution. W. W. Norton: NY

The evolutionary record is contained in the DNA of organisms. It is a history that we can finally begin to read.



*Coyne, Jerry A., and H. Allen Orr. 2004. Speciation. Sinauer Associates: MA.

Coyne and Orr have written a textbook covering all aspects of speciation, emphasizing modern research on this topic.


*Ellis, Richard. 2001. Aquagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Sea. Viking Penguin Books: NY

Ellis is a masterful storyteller and illustrator. There are better books on this subject but if you like Ellis way of weaving facts, this book should please you.


*Fortey, Richard. 1997. Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth. Vintage Books: NY

Fortey narrates the history of life on Earth, citing his own work and the research of other scientists to piece together the puzzles of how life evolved.


*Fortey, Richard. 2000. Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution. Alfred A. Knopf: NY

All you ever wanted to know about trilobites in an engaging, delightful prose.

*Gould, Stephen Jay. 1989. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. W. W. Norton: NY

Stephen Jay Gould delights some and irritates others but he always manages to inspire thoughtful reflection on a topic. In this book, he discusses in great detail the Burgess Shale and how it paints a picture of the “progression” of evolution unlike what is commonly perceived. Gould sees evolution not only as “survival of the fittest” but also as “survival of the lucky.”

*Gould, Stephen Jay. 2001. The Book of Life: An Illustrated History of the Evolution of Life on Earth. W.W. Norton: IA

*Gould, Stephen Jay. 2002. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: MA

This immense volume details Gould’s provocative and often controversial views on the evolution of life on Earth. To his credit, Gould is typically entertaining, and this book reads like a good novel. Unfortunately, you have to read a lot of it if you are generally unfamiliar with his ideas or the nuances of evolution. Nonetheless, it’s an essential reference for a biologist’s library.

*Hull, David L. 2001. Science and Selection: Essays on Biological Evolution and the Philosophy of Science. Cambridge University Press: UK

Hull’s essays educate and entertain and get the reader to thinking more deeply about science and its effects on humanity. His essays on evolution are a big help to those who need a refresher or those who require greater ammunition in the verbal wars with antievolutionists.

*Johnson, Kirk R., and Richard K. Stucky. 1995. Prehistoric Journey: A History of Life on Earth. Roberts Rinehart Publishers: CO.

Based on dioramas at the Denver Museum of Natural History, this delightfully illustrated book traces the history of life from microbes to mammals, with an emphasis on dinosaurs. Its brevity notwithstanding, this book does a great job of providing the fossil evidence on which the scientific interpretation of the history of life is based.

*Kirschner, Marc W. and John C. Gerhart. 2005. The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma. Yale University Press: CT

Kirscner and Gerhart tackle the origins of new species and evolutionary complexity.

*Knoll, Andrew. 2003. Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth. Princeton University Press: NJ

This is an outstanding book on the evolution of Earth and its biota. Knoll is one of the pioneers in the field of geobiology and his up-to-date scientific account of the field makes this an excellent reference and an entertaining read. Knoll exposes the controversies and examines the evidence that surrounding them. Most narratives don’t make good reference books but Knoll’s is an exception. If you are trying to choose between “histories of life on Earth”, pick this one.

*Larson, Edward J. 2004. Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Modern Library: NY

This book sketches the development of evolutionary theory. It’s primarily written for general audiences and so loses some of the detail required for students and instructors.

*Margulis, Lynn, and Dorion Sagan. 1986. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution. Simon and Schuster: NY.

A provocative hypothesis about the interdependency of higher organisms and bacteria.

*Margulis, Lynn. 1998. The Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: UK

Margulis is not one to shy away from controversy. Her endosymbiotic hypothesis was met with great skepticism originally but is now widely accepted. In this book, she applies her principles of symbiosis to the full range of life and its communities, including Earth.

*Margulis, Lynn, and Michael F. Dolan. 2002. Early Life: Evolution of the PreCambrian Earth, 2nd Edition. Jones and Bartlett: MA

*Mayr, Ernst. 1982. The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: MA

Professor Sean thinks this is one of the most important books ever written. It defends the place of biology in science and retells the history of evolutionary thinking from pre- to neo-Darwinism. At more than 900 pages, it’s an intimidating volume, but Mayr’s prose and his way of explaining concepts makes this book a delight to read. You will only want to read several pages of it at a time as Mayr provokes deep reverie with every page. But you will have a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of evolution upon reading this book than is possible with just about any other book.

*Mayr, Ernst. 2001. What Evolution Is. Basic Books: NY

Any book by Ernst Mayr is worth reading, according to Professor Sean. This book provides a solid foundation for different aspects of evolution and evolutionary processes.

*Weiner, Jonathan. 1994. The Beak of the Finch. Vintage Books: NY

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book has become a textbook for learning about evolution.

*Zimmer, Carl. 1998. At the Water’s Edge: Fish With Fingers, Whales With Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea. Simon and Schuster: NY

An excellent narrative on macroevolution.

*Zimmer, Carl. 2001. Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea. HarperCollins: NY

This is the companion book to the Evolution video series by PBS.

*Moorehead, Alan. 1969. Darwin and the Beagle. Harper & Row: NY

This “old” book is notable for its abundant photos, illustrations and drawings, many of which are full page and stunning, and for its highly readable and intimate account of Charles Darwin’s voyage aboard HMS Beagle. It’s not as dense with information as other books on Darwin but it captures the spirit of his curiosity and scientific reasoning.

Reference for: Chapter 12, The Foundations of Evolutionary Theory

The Endless Voyage: Building Blocks, Water World and Survivors (written by W. S. Chamberlin) (Episodes 18, 19 and 21). 2002 (VHS and DVD). Intelecom.

Professor Sean appeared in several of the episodes of this series and helped develop learning activities to support it. While some episodes are better than others, The Endless Voyage provides one of the most complete and up-to-date series on oceanography available

: : Encyclopedia of the Sea : :
Chapter Two Image

Albatrosses, Shearwaters, and Petrels by Sean Chamberlin

The albatross, shearwaters and petrels have special meaning for sailors. Any number of symbolic and superstitious meanings has been attributed to the albatross, perhaps because of its angel-like wingspan or its ghost-like ability to glide across the waves for hours without flapping. Samuel Taylor Coleridge immortalized the albatross in his 1796 supernatural poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo!

Storm petrels—occasionally found aboard oceanographic research ships after a prolonged storm—either remind sailors (and oceanographers) of home or bring greater meaning to the question, “What the heck are we—bird and man—doing out here?”

The family name, Procellariiformes, comes from the Latin word procella, which means “storm”. All members of this group live at sea, visiting land only to breed. They share a number of features in common, including a grooved bill with a hooked tip and tube-like nostrils, for which they are often called tubenoses. Their tubed nostrils function to expel salts in association with salt glands that enable these birds to drink salt water. Albatross, shearwaters and storm petrels are among the top-ranked birds in flying ability. With a wingspan up to 11 feet, the wandering albatross (Dimedea exulans) derives energy from gusts of wind at the crest of waves by rolling belly up from the lee of the wave (the calm side), enabling them to reach heights of 60 feet (e.g. Pennycuick 2002). This type of flying, called gust soaring, enables the albatross to glide long distances without flapping—hundreds of miles in a single day—thereby conserving energy. Without wind, albatrosses are forced to land on the sea surface, sometimes for days. Storm petrels, with their much shorter wing span (not much bigger than a sparrow’s) must flap more often to maintain continuous flight. Nonetheless, storm petrels are also highly effective flyers over long distances though they do not fly as well in very windy conditions, which is one of the reasons why they are often found resting on ships.

This long distance capability of albatross, shearwaters and petrels affords unique opportunities for these birds to feed. Satellite tracking of the Wandering Albatross from their breeding grounds reveals that these birds may travel thousands of miles in a single feeding trip (Jouventin and Weimerskirch 1990). However, their movements are not random. Several studies have suggested that these birds use olfactory cues to locate foraging hotspots, where food is plentiful. Procellariifoms have one of the largest olfactory bulbs of all seabirds suggesting an important role for olfaction in these birds. Studies on Leach’s storm petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) reveal an ability to detect the dimethyl sulfides (DMS) produced by phytoplankton and released during zooplankton grazing (Nevitt and Haberman 2003). It has been suggested that DMS acts as a long-range cue to put the birds in the ballpark, so to speak, with sight and other olfactory cues providing the means to zero in on prey. Some studies have also suggested that these birds interact socially while at sea and may respond to the movements of their neighbors. As a result of their sensory inputs and behaviors, there is a strong association of these birds with oceanographic features that stimulate biological. Aggregations of birds occur near oceanic fronts, upwelling centers, eddies, island wakes, seamounts and the ice edge, i.e. places where productivity is high. Fish-aggregating devices, such as mats of Sargassum, logs and debris, and even human platforms also tend to attract birds seeking food. Decadal oscillations, such as ENSO and NAO, will also affect the abundance of food and the distribution and reproductive rates of seabirds. (for further discussion and references, see Schreiber and Burger 2001).

These birds also aggregate during feeding frenzies by dolphin and tuna when hundreds of individuals may be found together (Merlen 1998). The aggregating behavior of sea birds with predatory fishes feeding on schools of smaller fish has been known for centuries. Whalers associated flocks of birds at sea as a positive sign for the presence of whales. These birds feed primarily on squid and fish but they will also scavenge on the carcasses of dead squid and fish. This feeding behavior makes these birds highly susceptible to longline fishing, where baited hooks lure them to their death. Though exact and reliable figures are difficult to come by, mortality studies estimate that tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of seabirds are killed annually as a result of fishing (e.g. Brothers 1991; Gales et al., 1998; Tasker et al., 2000). Longline fisheries negatively impact populations of albatross, shearwater and petrels, although the effects are not always straightforward. Bycatch of immature birds may not alter the reproductive rate of the population at large and feeding on baited hooks that does not result in drowning (i.e. the bird gets away) may actually benefit the birds. The practice of throwing fish bycatch overboard also has benefits to birds. Nonetheless, these deaths do impact the bird populations and they incur great costs to the fishermen. A number of promising measures are being taken to reduce bycatch of birds but pirate fishing, continuing use of illegal gill nets and other forms of resistance by fishermen may limit their effectiveness.

Increased mortality does not bode well for these birds. Of the 24 species of albatross, 21 are considered to be threatened or endangered, largely because their slow rate of reproduction can not keep pace with the rate at which they are being killed. Parental investment in their reproductive effort is high in most seabirds. At least 96% of all seabirds form breeding colonies—collections of individuals at a breeding site—and most are monogamous, mating for life. Without exception, seabird colonies tend to be located where mammalian predators are absent or where their access to the breeding location is highly restricted. On islands where rats or cats have been introduced, their predatory effects on young chicks have been devastating. Albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels seek out oceanic islands or coral atolls where they may select crevices or build burrows in which to lay their eggs (e.g. shearwaters and petrels) or simply find a spot on the open ground (e.g. albatrosses).The rearing of chicks in these birds requires Herculean efforts and some deal of luck. All Procellariiforms produce one egg annually except for a few species of albatross, like the Wandering Albatross, who produces one egg every two years. In this species, the time between nest building and fledgling of their young (when the young leave the nest) may span 380 days! Rearing times for most of these birds can take a hundred days or longer. Throughout breeding, one parent tends the nest while the other feeds at sea. The length of time that a parent spends at sea varies according to the stage of development, at least in the Wandering Albatross. During incubation, the parent spends more time at sea and gains weight. In contrast, during brooding, the parent reduces time at sea and loses weight, bringing food back to the nest to regurgitate for their chick (Shaffer et al., 2003). Understanding the balance between the energetic demands of the hatchlings and the needs of the adult helps scientists better understand the range of factors that contribute to or limit the success of reproduction. Young hatchlings whose ability to thermoregulate is underdeveloped are susceptible to temperature fluctuations and death may occur from even a simple rainstorm. Food availability may also limit their survival in a given year as a result of ENSO events or other oceanographic conditions that reduce food supply. Nonetheless, the average annual survival rates for most Procellariiforms may be in excess of 90%, largely due to the care provided by the parents. These birds are also among the most long-lived of all bird species. Albatrosses have a life span of about fifty years or more while shearwaters and petrels may live 30 years. Thus, while their specific rate of reproduction may be low, their high investment in rearing their young and their long life span are factors that may contribute to the return of their populations.