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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

Cephalopod Camouflage and Communication by Sean Chamberlin

The skin of cephalopods is covered with numerous specialized cells including dense concentrations of pigment-filled star-like cells called chromatophores. The elastic walls of these cells, controlled by muscles under nervous control, can be contracted and expanded, producing a dazzling array of spots, stripes, ripples, and changing hues of all colors. These color changes surpass the chameleon in terms of speed and versatility, according to Roger Hanlon. Octopods can create textures and patterns by raising protuberances on their skin. Cuttlefish and other cephalopods can hold their bodies and tentacles in certain positions to mimic background features. The matching of a color or pattern by a prey organism to a random sample of the predator’s visual environment at the time and place of the encounter is called crypsis (Hanlon and Messenger 2000; after Endler 1991). Crypsis in cephalopods includes color matching, shadow concealment (countershading), disruptive coloration, deceptive resemblance or rapid polymorphism and cryptic behavior.

Cephalopods can change colors to blend in with their environment, turning light-colored in shallow waters and deeper hues in darker waters, a form of color matching. They can create dual color patterns on their bodies, creating dark hues on their topside and light hues on their underside, a phenomenon known as countershading, found among many sharks and fishes. Squids and cuttlefish often make use of disruptive coloration, creating horizontal and vertical bars across their bodies to break up the visual field of fishes and make themselves virtually invisible. To blend in with their environment, cephalopds employ deceptive resemblance, matching the colors and patterns of the sea bottom or even seaweeds and corals. Rapid polymorphism is one of the more interesting adaptations in that we typically think of polymorphism (exhibiting different morphologies) in terms of a particular life stage of a plant or animal, like seaweeds that change from a tar spot to an erect form between sexual and asexual stages. Cephalopods appear to use rapid polymorphism to keep their predators guessing. For example, two cephalopods of the same species may exhibit quite different patterns on the same substrate or a single animal may alter its pattern at different times on the same substrate. By randomly changing appearance, predators never develop a consistent search pattern and so become confused as to whether a particular animal is prey or not.

The evolution of body patterns as a defense against predators likely paved the way for the evolution of communication in cephalopods (although these functions could have co-evolved). Communication requires a transmitter and a receiver so in the language of animal behaviorists, (known as ethologists), communication involves transfer, interpretation and response involving signals, defined as “attention-getting behaviors or features used to convey information.” (Hanlon and Messenger 1996; following Phillips and Austad 1992). Signals, which by definition are discrete and well-defined behaviors, may be combined into displays, which are multiple signals used simultaneously or sequentially. Careful research leaves little doubt that cephalopods communicate using postures, movements, textures, patterns and colors. Signals may involve all or parts of the body and may be used in a variety of ways, including courtship, male rivalry, prey-attraction and defense. To create these signals, cephalopods may hold their arms in a particular position, they may move rapidly or in a particular direction repeatedly, they may display intense patterns or calm patterns and they may change color completely. Among one of the more well-studied behaviors is the Intense Zebra Display of male cuttlefish. When males are competing for a female, they will display a highly detailed, high-contrast color and pattern that resembles the stripes of a zebra. Gradations of the display appear to indicate the “willingness” of the males to battle physically in pursuit of the female. Encounters between males in which both animals displayed a fully developed zebra display typically escalated into violence. Encounters where one of the males exhibited a weaker pattern were not followed by physical contact. This behavior is thought to allow males to identify each other (and avoid unwanted copulation) and to signal their motivations for mating. To avoid rivalry, some males employ a form of transvestitism, posing as females by mimicking their pattern and sneaking by the larger males to mate with the female. Their “victory” may be short-lived: male cuttlefish have an ability to use their siphon to pump out the sperm of the previous male. Clearly, communication and mating in these cephalopods can be very complex.

Of course, chromatophores are only useful for shallow water species inhabiting the photic zone. Those species living in the abyss, primarily between 400 and 1200 meters, are equipped with photophores, bioluminescent light organs that function in crypsis and signalling. A wide variety of patterns, colors, and shapes of photophores are described for cephalopods, especially squid, many having the appearance of “brilliant gems” (Chun 1910). A species of transparent squid, Megalocranchia, has photophores on its liver. For the most part, photophores appear on the ventral (lower) side of the body near the eye and across the body, arms and tentacles. The distribution, color and intensity of these photophores—and an ability to vary these properties—suggest that they function for ventral counter-illumination, matching the underside of their body to the intensity and spectrum of downwelling light. By illuminating their bodies, squids, when viewed from below, appear to blend in to the dim blue “haze” of the ~ 480 nm light above them. Squid also possess light sensors on their bodies, called photosensitive vesicles, specifically for the purpose of monitoring the brightness of their photophores. The use of photophores for signaling and communication has not been adequately documented but clearly photophores for purposes other than counter-illumination exist. Hypotheses concerning the function of these photophores include species recognition, mating rituals, prey attraction, predator confusion and possibly, cooperative hunting. In 1991, Howard Hall, a world-famous cinematographer, wanted to capture footage of the large and predaceous Humboldt squid (also known as the Jumbo squid). He proposed to use a hooked fish to lure the squid to the surface, a phenomenon often observed by Mexican fisherman. With another diver to assist him, Hall filmed as a thresher shark was brought to the surface. Suddenly, he saw “strobes going off about 5 times per second...flashing from bright red to ivory white.” A school of 5-foot long squid ascended from the depths. They attacked the shark and then turned their attention to Hall’s dive buddy.

Three large squid grabbed Alex at the same time. Suddenly, he felt himself rushing backward and down. A tentacle reached around his neck and ripped off his pre-Columbian gold pendant and chain, tearing the skin on his neck. Another squid ripped his decompression computer off his pressure gauge. Tentacles tore his dive light from his wrist and his collection bag off his waist. Then, as suddenly as they had grabbed him, the squid were gone.

Whether the “red-and-white” flashes represent some type of signal associated with feeding behavior is purely speculative. Richard Ellis in his book, Monsters of the Sea, notes that accounts describing bursts of bioluminescence associated with feeding Humboldt squid can be found in a 1941 National Geographic. No doubt, the Mexican fishermen have their own tales to tell. In any case, the bioluminescent behavior of squids remains fertile ground for inquiring minds who may wish to pursue a career in ocean science.

Note: Communication in cephalopods exhibits all the traits of good acting, whereby an actor listen, reacts and responds to verbal or physical action.