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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

Climate Change and Cetacean Evolution by Sean Chamberlin

As scientists attempt to predict the impact of climate change on the world ocean and its inhabitants, some clues may be provided by looking back at historical climate change. One period that has caught the attention of a wide range of scientists is the Eocene-Oligocene (E/O) transition (~33.7 mya). It was during this time—between 45 and 24 million years before present—that Earth’s climate shifted from a relatively warm, greenhouse climate to its current relatively cool, icehouse climate. It was also during this time that the archaeocetes made their transition from land to sea and the modern cetaceans diversified throughout the world ocean.

Three major stages in the evolution of cetaceans are recognized and these stages are hypothesized to coincide with major shifts in climate and ocean conditions that resulted from continental drift:

  1. appearance and diversification of the archaeocetes
  2. appearance and diversification of the odontocetes and mysticetes
  3. diversification of the delphinoids (dolphins) and balaenopterids (a family of mysticetes that includes the humpback and blue whales)

(See Fordyce 2002.)

The initial radiation of the archaeocetes occurred within the same times frame (~53 – 45 mya) during which the Tethys ocean—the ocean between Gondwanaland and Laurasia prior to the opening of the Atlantic—had shrunk significantly. As Africa and India moved north, squeezing the Tethys Ocean, a more narrow sea called the Tethys seaway was formed. The Black, Aral and Caspian Seas of modern times are remnants of this seaway. The evolutionary pressure that drove artiodactyls into the sea and the ecological opportunity afforded by the appearance of the seaway can only be speculated. Competition for food on land and an abundance of food in the sea are hypothesized. The Tethys seaway created a shallow water platform marked by near-tropical riverine, marshy, estuarine and coastal habitats that were highly productive biologically. The sediments deposited in these shallow waters encapsulated a diverse number of animals and provide a rich source of fossils for paleontologists. Studies of those fossils suggest that archaeocetes transitioned from a crocodilian-like ambush predator of terrestrial prey to a pursuit predator on aquatic prey. Cetacean structures for locomotion and hearing evolved during this time. However, by the end of the Eocene, the diversity of archaeocetes declined as groups went extinct, perhaps due to cooling of the ocean, shifts in prey type and abundance, competition from other species or other reasons. Closure of the Tethys seaway from 40-45 mya has also been hypothesized as a possible reason for the decline of archaeocetes (Berta and Sumich 1999; after Fordyce 1996).

The decline of some species may have a windfall for others. The survivors, the Neoceti (new cetaceans), rapidly began to diversify in the cooler waters of the Oligocene. By the E/O transition, Antarctica had completely separated from Africa and Australia, opening what is known as the Tasmanian Gateway, which eventually gave rise to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). The opening of the Tasmanian Gateway has been hypothesized as the “trigger” that altered ocean circulation patterns and led to climate change (Brinkhuis et al., 2003; Stickley et al., 2003?). The resultant isolation of Antarctica and establishment of the ACC cooled the continent and led to a rapid expansion of ice sheets on the continent. Deep-water masses expanded along the sea floor in the World Ocean and polar fronts intensified in surface waters. Seawater temperatures fell from 8–13° C and sea level dropped by as much as 164 feet. The Eocene-Oligocene also produced an increase in ocean productivity, particularly in the Southern Ocean, as evidenced in sediments examined from this time. Cooling of Earth’s climate likely led to increased precipitation and possibly winds that delivered greater amounts of iron, silica and other biologically important nutrients that enhanced production (Salamy and Zachos 1999). Greater extremes in the seasons—notably cooler winters—also marks this period of time, a phenomenon that may have caused a mass extinction of mollusks in the U.S. Gulf coastal plain (Ivany et al., 2000). While the E/O transition produced a number of extinctions on land and sea, it also gave rise to the odontocetes and mysticetes.

While evolution of the archaeocetes occurred in the near-tropical waters of the Tethys seaway, the evolution of toothed and baleen whales took place in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean. The earliest fossil representatives of these groups come from New Zealand and the North Pacific and have provided intriguing clues as to the ecology of these groups. Though they were toothed, they appear to have filter-fed (Fordyce web site, but see Fordyce 1994), perhaps in the manner of schools of blue sharks who have been observed to concentrate krill by circling before dashing through them to feed (see Seasons of the Sea). Toothed mysticete fossils have been found in the North and Southwest Pacific; modern mysticetes develop teeth as an embryo but lose them as their baleen develops. The evolution of teeth that are similar in size and shape (homodont) with a single cusp (as in odontocetes) or complete loss of teeth (as in mysticetes) characterize modern cetaceans. Odontocetes evolved echolocation by the late Oligocene as a means to find, identify and perhaps stun their prey. Fossils of the deep-diving sperm whales date from this time. The Mysticetes lost their teeth and evolved baleen for filter-feeding. The pelagic lifestyle of these early modern cetaceans and diversification related to feeding structures suggests that food may have been a driving force behind their evolution. However, other factors, perhaps those affecting reproduction, may also have been important. Additional fossil specimens, coupled with isotopic analysis, may shed new clues as to the prey and environmental conditions in which these animals lived.

The final stage in the rise of cetaceans occurs in the middle to late Miocene (~12-15 mya). At this time, early forms of mysticetes went extinct and modern forms arose and diversified. The family Balaenopteridae, also known as rorquals (from a Norwegian word meaning tube or furrow whale), diversified during this time with their grooved expandable throats. This family, the most diverse of the baleen whales, includes six species—fin, bryde’s, sei, minke, humpback and blue—all of whom migrate to warmer waters to reproduce. This period also witnessed a rapid expansion in dolphins and their relatives, including species that invaded freshwater rivers. Thirty-three species of delphinidae inhibit the modern world ocean, including the relatives of Flipper, the bottlenose dolphin, and Willy, the killer whale. The dolphins and their relatives are the most diverse family of toothed whales.

The Miocene represents a temporary interval of warming in Earth’s climate. The Oligocene that preceded it and the Pleistocene that followed were cooler. As well, closing of seaways isolated populations of marine organisms while bringing terrestrial organisms into contact. Kelp forests appeared at this time as did grasslands, an apparent response to dry conditions in the interior of the continents. The degree to which any of these changes—or any of a number of possible changes—influenced the evolution of cetaceans is unknown. Yet our brief discussion of paleoecology and evolution provides insights for testing hypotheses related to possible extinctions associated with modern climate change. Understanding why some species survived and why others went extinct may help us to better understand the interactions of geological, physical, chemical or biological in the world ocean over greater temporal and spatial scales.