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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 Parenting by Sean Chamberlin

Many of the examples we have already discussed demonstrate behaviors related to the protection and of young. In this section, we focus on birthing and rearing behaviors, especially those provided in a group context. Observations of cetacean births in the wild are exceedingly rare and, except in captivity, virtually none have been unobserved underwater. Scientists have witnessed confirmed births in at least seven species: the killer whale, sperm whale, beluga, false killer whale, gray whale (see references in Stacy and Baird 1997) and coastal bottlenose dolphins (Weaver 1987). In most of these species, birth appears to involve social interactions and group behaviors aimed towards assisting the mother and her calf.

Non-scientific and anecdotal observations of cetaceans births are only slightly more common, but no less important in that they provide insights that can be used by scientists. Chamberlin has observed in the near-shore waters off Ka’anapali, Maui, a lone female humpback whale suddenly appear with a calf in what several persons on the beach concluded was a birth. Birth-like events are well known in these waters and often observed by locals and tourists along the western shore of Maui. Nonetheless, observations by untrained eyes (including Chamberlin) may fail to take all circumstances into account and what appears like a birth may have alternate explanations. The ancient Hawaiians referred to the protected waters between Maui and Molokai as kaiolohia, tranquil sea, the birthing place of humpback whales, so the lore of humpback births in this region runs strong. The Silver Banks off the coast of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean are similarly known as a birthing ground for humpback whales. This region has become increasingly popular as well for tourists interested in these magnificent animals. In any case, though no direct scientific observation are published, anecdotal evidence (of which the internet abounds regarding humpback whales) suggests that humpbacks give birth in shallow and quiet waters, typically near shore and without the presence of other individuals.

On the other hand, witnesses to births of bottlenose dolphins describe the formation of birthing circles, a group of individuals, presumably females, surrounding the mother during the birthing process. Populations of dolphins living along the coast of southern California appear to seek out sheltered coves to give birth (Kelley, unpublished report). One such cove, Crystal Cove State Park (Orange County, California) was the site of the first reported observations of birthing circles. In December 1982, Ann Weaver, a graduate student at the time, observed several dolphins form a spoke-like pattern with one individual in the center. The surrounding dolphins were regularly seen above the water, often times with their beaks pointed towards the central dolphin. Their behavior resembled those observed during epimeletic (care-giving) activities but there was no apparent sick or injured dolphin. After a series of vigorous motions and maneuvers by the central dolphin, a small calf—called a neonate—appeared. The entire process took more than 90 minutes (see Weaver 1987). At least ten such incidents have been observed along the southern California coast since that time but the rarity of these events makes any general conclusions difficult. Cetaceans in captivity have been observed giving birth on occasion. During these instances, other individuals will assist the mother. So it does appear that group interactions may be the norm for mothers giving birth.

Births by killer whales have been observed on at least two occasions and, in both cases, a group of individuals assisted the mother during birth. On July 11, 1990, in the Straits of Juan de Fuca  off Victoria, British Columbia, researchers witnessed 11 individuals—females and males—acting uncharacteristically swimming back and forth single across the same path before stopping to mill about (essentially, hang out in a group). One individual—later identified as a 13-year-old female—was observed to rotate at the surface several times for 30 seconds before three whales emerged (spyhopped) above the surface with a neonate held on their “head” (technically, their rostrum, the upper jaw). Vigorous and what was interpreted as aggressive activity followed—circling, swimming, tail slapping the neonate, holding and/or throwing the neonate above water—before the group swam away at high speed. Aggressive behaviors with neonates have been observed previously but the reasons for this behavior are not known. Perhaps these activities stimulate nervous and motor functions that are essential for a neonate from the start of its life. In any case, the young calf, a female named L82, continues to reside in these waters and, by the time of the publication of this book, could have her own offspring.

When born, the neonate begins to swim immediately. Unlike many mammal newborns, who are underdeveloped and require extensive parental protection and care, cetacean neonates are fairly well-developed with good swimming and sensory capabilities. Offspring who exhibit adult-like properties at birth (like cetaceans and sharks) are called precocial whereas offspring that require the safety of a nest, den or pouch (like kangaroos and humans) are called altricial. Precocious behavior is essential in an animal whose habitat offers very little protection. Despite close associations with the mother and other adults during the early years of their life, a third to nearly half of all neonates are killed within the first six months to a year of their life (Whitehead and Mann 2000).

As discussed earlier, the mother and her neonate may undergo a critical period of imprinting in the first week of the calf’s life. Subsequently, the calf may be seen with other females who appear to “babysit” while the mother is foraging for food, resting, socializing or otherwise absent (Mann and Smuts 1998). Associations of a calf with an individual other than its mother, termed allomaternal care, occurs frequently in bottlenose dolphins but its benefits to the mother or allomother are unclear. Behavioral ecologists pose three questions regarding allomaternal care: 1) does it benefit the mother or the calf; and 2) does the allomother perform tasks for the calf that are specialized, i.e. beyond those behaviors that the allomother would normally exhibit; and 3) are those specialized behaviors costly to the allomother in terms of energy demands or risks?

Based on mortality rates for neonates, it would appear that protection from predators or aggressive male dolphins benefits the calf (and the mother in terms of reproductive fitness), assuming that mere association with another female is sufficient to protect it. Calves may benefit from echelon swimming—swimming near the “shoulder” (in the bow wave) of an adult—which reduces the energy required for swimming by a calf. In these cases, it would appear that allomothers would not necessarily alter their normal routine and would not incur additional costs through babysitting. Of course, separation from the mother with an inexperienced immature or neglectful adult may be costly so there is likely a tradeoff in benefits versus costs. Nonetheless, Mann and Smuts’ study (1998) revealed that neonates beyond their first week were separated from their mothers 2 to 3 times per hour but most of the time they remained alone (43 – 66% of the time). The rest of the time, they either associated with other infants or with allomothers. Allomothers were most often inexperienced females. During separations with escorts, the mother did not forage any more than when the calf was alone, so increased maternal foraging is not one of the benefits of escorts.

Researchers have suggested that inexperienced females benefit from allomothering by learning parenting skills. However, such benefits would be difficult to prove by observation. There is some evidence that calves benefit from separation as it leads them towards greater self-reliance and promotes social interactions that may be important to group social behaviors, such as male alliances. The costs and benefits of allomaternal behavior may also be species dependent: in deep-diving sperm whales, young sperm whales may be required to spend long periods of time separated from their mother while she feeds at depths that cannot be achieved by the infant. In such cases, allomaternal care would be more important to the mother and likely more important to the population as a whole as the survival of offspring would depend on a social system that cared for their young. As with so many cetacean behaviors, our understanding is incomplete. Yet the questions raised by these studies provide intriguing insights into the nature of social interactions and its importance in the survival of a species.