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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

Blue Shark: The World Traveler by Sean Chamberlin

Growing to lengths up to 16 feet, the blue shark (Prionace glauca) is the most abundant shark found along the east and west American coasts and elsewhere in the world. Cousteau calls the blue shark “the most majestic of all sharks.” The blue shark is named for the brilliant blue color of its sides and back. Like most sharks who exhibit countershading, the blue shark’s belly is bright white. Presumably, the blue shark’s blue topside provides camouflage as it approaches its prey from below. Blending in with the brilliant blue waters off Catalina Island, this shark would be very difficult to see from above.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature about this shark is its eyes. Its coal-black pupils rimmed with white have an impassive look to them. Blue shark eyes, like all shark eyes, are highly developed. In fact, shark eyes function much like cat eyes to given them excellent night vision. Behind the retina of the eye is a reflective structure called a tapetum lucidum. The granular, silvery crystals of the tapetum lucidum act to capture scattered light under low light intensities and improve the ability of the shark to see objects in dim light.

If heavy metal bands wrote for sharks, the blue shark’s song might be “Wherever I May Roam.” (Metallica 1991). The blue shark is a veteran swimmer of the world ocean and well-known for its extensive migrations in temperate and tropical waters. One blue shark, tagged off New York, was captured 16 months later off the coast of Brazil, a 3,740-mile journey. Data from tagging studies indicate that these sharks comprise a single population in the North Atlantic and frequently make trans-Atlantic migrations according to water temperatures, reproductive state and food (e.g., Natanson 2003). A new generation of tags, called pop-up satellite tages (PSATs) now provide more information and greater potential for studies on the behavior of many pelagic fishes, including the blue shark. PSATs, once attached, record data on a number of variables, including the internal body temperature of the animal, water temperature, swimming depth and light intensity, used to determine geographic position from sunrise and sunset times. At the end of a given interval of time, or when the animal dies or is captured, the tag “pops up” and transmits its data to an orbiting satellite. PSATs are being used to study the daily vertical and horizontal movements of blue sharks in relation to oceanographic conditions with the hopes of discovering patterns that may be used to minimize their capture in longline fishing (Musyl and Brill 2003).

In addition to their reputation as long-distance swimmers, blue sharks excel in speed. Their sleek, fusiform bodies, long pointed snout, and long curved pectoral fins provide powerful and swift locomotion when necessary. Their speed enables them to feed on fast-moving prey, such squid and small bony fishes. When feeding on squid, blue sharks may race through a school of squid with their mouth wide open or they may swim slowly sweeping their heads back and forth. They also can charge upwards in a vertical position to engulf their prey. Blue sharks are also well known for their feeding on captured whales. Whalers have long noted the ferocity with which blue sharks attack whale carcasses. In the midst of a full-on frenzy, blue sharks are even oblivious to the pokes of a harpoon wielded by a wary seaman.

Blue sharks, like most elasmobranchs, give live birth to their young. Several types of viviparity are known in sharks but blue sharks exhibit placental viviparity, meaning their embryos receive nourishment from a placenta. Gestation periods in blue sharks last from 9 to 12 months with as few as 4 and as many as 135 pups being born per litter. During courting, the male blue sharks appear to bite the females. Female blue sharks are easily distinguished from males by the teeth scars on their backs. The skin of female blue sharks is twice as thick as male blue sharks and thicker than the male’s teeth are long, an adaptation to their mating rituals. Following copulation, the female stores the sperm until the following spring, whereupon ovulation and fertilization occurs.

Although the reproductive rate of blue sharks is relatively high for a shark, the population doubling time (the time it takes a population to double in size) is considered to be about 14 years. Thus, their populations do not recover quickly when overfished. Blue sharks are prized for their fins as their meat quickly spoils. They are also valued as a sport fish. But the greatest threat to blue sharks comes from their incidental take as bycatch. Blue sharks rank among the top species taken as bycatch in longline fishing for tuna, swordfish and other species. Typically, blue sharks represent the largest proportion of discarded fish (NMFS 2001). The Final Amendment 1 to the Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Tuna, Billfish and Sharks establishes semi-annual, non-regional quotas for blue sharks with closures to be determined if necessary. The outlook is cautious but more scientific research is required to determine the actual extent of blue shark populations and the impact of fishing on their numbers. Scientists estimate that 10 to 20 million blue sharks are killed each year, a number that likely cannot be sustained.