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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

Introducing Marine Bacteria by Sean Chamberlin

For nearly 2 billion years, marine bacteria ruled the Earth. During the Age of Bacteria (from ~3.5 – 1.8 bya), all of Earth’s biogeochemical cycles were established. But for bacteria, Earth’s material resources would have been bound into an irretrievable form a long time ago. Yet while the role of bacteria as “nature’s recyclers” is well-appreciated, less well known is their importance as a food source. Nourished by pools of dissolved organic carbon, marine bacteria play a central role in marine food webs providing nutrition to a host of small microorganisms. In doing so, they “recapture” energy in the form of carbon compounds that might otherwise be lost to the system. This microbial loop, the component of a marine food web that recycles minerals (e.g., regeneration of biologically important nutrients) and captures carbon and energy from dissolved organic matter, represents an integral component of marine food webs, especially in the open ocean. In recognition of their importance in the world ocean, oceanographers now often refer to water column bacteria as bacterioplankton (“bacteria drifters”). To this ever-growing list of accomplishments among marine bacteria, we must also emphasize their role as autotrophs, producers of organic matter (aka primary producers). Photosynthetic bacteria abound in the world ocean. In fact, oceanographers estimate that the contribution of photosynthetic bacteria to primary production exceeds that of all other primary producers in the ocean.

Much of what we know about marine bacteria has emerged since the 1980s. The application of molecular biology techniques to studies of marine bacteria has advanced considerably our knowledge of their diversity and distribution, but much remains to be learned regarding the types and scales of their metabolic activities. One of the major puzzles concerns the discrepancy between marine bacteria that can be cultured and those that cannot. As far back as 1959, oceanographers recognized that the number of bacteria appearing under a microscope was far greater than the number that grew out on agar plates, a type of solid, nutrient-enriched sterile medium designed to study bacterial growth. This “great plate count anomaly”, as it came to be known, remained a puzzle until ocean genomics revealed a diverse suite of marine bacterioplankton. Intriguingly, the most abundant gene sequences (specifically, ribosomal DNA genes) found in the world ocean belong to groups that can not be cultured in a laboratory.

On the basis of gene sequencing, eleven major groups of bacterioplankton are recognized in the world ocean, including the two groups of Archaea. Of these, only two groups contain species that have been cultured. Little is known about the most abundant group, discovered in 1990 and known simply by its gene cluster, SAR11. Its presence throughout the world ocean from shallow lagoons to the deep ocean suggests this “species” may be the most abundant marine bacteria in the world ocean. The Roseobacter group has been found throughout the world ocean and represents one of two culturable marine bacteria. While they exhibit diverse metabolic modes that change with environmental conditions, they all appear to utilize organic or inorganic sulfur compounds. Nevertheless, their ecological role remains uncertain. Perhaps the most well-known marine bacteria are the other culturable group, the cyanobacteria (literally, the blue-green bacteria), the dominant member of the picophytoplankton (see Table above). Unseen in the world ocean until the late 1970s, cyanobacteria are now believed to be the most abundant and possibly the most productive photosynthetic microorganisms on Earth. Two major groups of cyanobacteria can be found in the world ocean. The cyanobacterium Synechococcus (sin-eh-ko-KOK-us), discovered by John Waterbury in 1979, measures 1.5 – 2.5 μm in size. It seems to prefer high-light, tropical and subtropical waters, like the Sargasso Sea, although it may be found throughout the world ocean, including polar regions. Its cousin, Prochlorococcus (pro-chlor-oh-KOK-us) was found by Penny Chisholm in 1988 and measuresless than 0.7 μm in diameter (about 1/100th the width of a human hair), making it the smallest known photoautotroph on Earth. Prochlorococcus has been found to inhabit waters between 40º N – 40º S (cold temperatures may be lethal) in at least two ecotypes (genetic variants): one that prefers high light and one that prefers low light. Both species appear to have very small genomes yet exhibit considerable plasticity in their ability to adapt to varying oceanic conditions. Both ecotypes may be capable of nitrogen fixation and heterotrophy (i.e., metabolizing organic substrates).

Though our knowledge of bacterioplankton species is limited, we do know that they inhabit different layers in the water column. We also know that bacteria associated with suspended particles are different from free-living types. As oceanographers are better able to attribute biochemical transformations and rate processes to specific groups of marine bacteria, our knowledge of their ecological roles will grow. We have much to learn and the future holds great promise for this exciting and rapidly growing field of oceanography.