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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

Cetacean Agonistic Behaviors by Sean Chamberlin

Agonistic behaviors are combative behaviors whose function is to discourage, dominate or repel a potential competitor, rival or foe. These behaviors largely relate to territorial defense, social hierarchy and mating rituals although other functions may exist. Communication signals may be employed in agonistic behaviors, including advertisement and deception. Non-acoustic signals, sexual interactions and physical violence also function as agonistic behaviors.

Tyack cites several possible reasons for the development of signaling in agonistic behavior. The foremost reason may be to determine the willingness of the opponents to put up a fight. Before engaging in combat, two animals may send signals designed to assess the ability and/or determination of the opponent. They may also send deceptive signals designed to mask or enhance their own abilities. The basic intention of signaling for a given animal is to predict the outcome of a contest. If the animal determines that it may lose a fight or sustain injuries, then it may call off the fight by swimming away or exhibiting a submissive display to acknowledge an unwillingness to escalate the aggression.

Studies on bottlenose dolphins in captivity appear to support predictive signaling—the use of a signal to predict future behavior—to establish dominance between males or to herd a potential mate (males herding females). Overstrom (1983) reported observations on a series of threat displays that appear to occur in stages of increasing aggression. The first stage involves an exchange of pulsed sounds between opposing males. Subsequently, the burst-pulses may become more intense or longer in duration and may be accompanied by an open mouth display or jerking of the head. The highest stage of threat is signaled by jaw clapping, an aggressive closing of an open jaw, accompanied by burst-pulses and head jerking. The open mouth display and jaw clapping of dolphins resemble the aggressive teeth-baring of dogs, bears and other animals and may serve a similar function, to intimidate the opponent. Tyack cautions that Overstrom’s predictive signaling hypothesis should be considered tentative until further research can establish its nature and generality (Tyack 2000).

Sperm whales may use a form of advertisement to dissuade potential competitors for a female. There is good evidence that sperm whale pulses and the intervals between them are a function of the size of their spermaceti organ, the large, wax-filled space above their skull that makes up as much as 40% of their body length. This organ—in which the spermaceti oil prized by whalers is found—likely functions as an echo chamber in the production of click-pulses. Thus, the longer the spermaceti organ, the greater the time interval between click echoes. Scientists have begun to use recordings of click-pulse intervals, called the interpulse interval, to determine the size of the sperm whale and the results appear promising (Rhinelander and Dawson 2004). Given the relationship between size and the interpulse interval, and assuming that the interval is detectable by other sperm whales, the males may engage in a form of advertisement signaling where clicks provide information on size and perhaps other masculine features attractive to females seeking a mate. Male sperm whales may evaluate the interpulse interval to determine the strength or fighting ability of a potential competitor. Thus, these advertisements could function in an agonistic manner as well.

Agonistic behaviors may also include physical violence, such as head butting, biting, chasing, pinning and ramming, among others (Samuels and Gifford 1997). Male narwhals with tusks—the extension of a pair of maxillary teeth—have been observed “fencing” and often bear scars from such encounters. Male dolphins likewise bear teeth marks and other scars indicative of aggression among males. Displays such as tail slaps, breaching or elaborate swimming maneuvers may also serve to advertise strength, impress or intimidate a mate or opponent or any of a variety of other functions. Perhaps the most violent agonistic behaviors have been observed between species of dolphins. In 1996, scientists reported evidence of fatal attacks on harbor porpoises by bottlenose dolphins (Ross and Wilson 1996). Of 142 harbor porpoises found between 1992 and 1996stranded on Moray Firth, a region of northeast Scotland, 90 bore skeletal or organ injuries from bottlenose dolphins. Hypotheses for these killings include competition for prey or territory, play, practice fighting, sexual frustration or infanticide-related behavior. Subsequent observations of bottlenose dolphin populations in this region revealed signs of dolphin infanticide, the intentional killing of offspring (Petterson et al., 1998). Observations of fatal injuries to bottlenose dolphin calves reported for stranded individuals along the coast of Virginia are consistent with infanticide (Dunn et al., 2002). The killing of infants is not uncommon among mammals although these are the first reported cases for cetaceans. Whether the killing of harbor porpoises as a form of infanticide practice, as hypothesized, or whether bottlenose dolphins engage in killing for other purposes remains unknown.

Sexual or socio-sexual behavior may also take agnostic forms in both heterosexual and homosexual displays. Acoustic popping of a female by a male has been interpreted as a form of threat display (Connor and Smolker 1996). Male bottlenose dolphins may form alliances and chase female bottlenose dolphins to the exclude other males (Tyack 2002). Males may also engage in homosexual behavior to establish dominance, as has been observed in bottlenose dolphins, killer whales and bowhead whales, among others (Connor et al., 2000). Aggressive displays of male-to-male mounting with erect penises accompanied byramming and biting have been observed in dolphins. Male bonding is very strong in some cetaceans and homosexual behavior may serve this purpose as well (see below). At the same time, other examples of socio-sexual behavior, including male calves mounting their mothers, male calves mounting older males, older males mounting male calves and females mounting males suggest that these behaviors may serve a number of functions.