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The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time Paperback – May 30, 1995
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Winner of the Pulitzer PrizeWinner of the Los Angeles Times Book PrizeOn a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch.In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin's finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself. The Beak of the Finch is an elegantly written and compelling masterpiece of theory and explication in the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould.
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While fascinating and well-written, I must admit that there were parts that were a bit dry and you really have to love this subject to get all the way through the book. Probably the best part is Weiner's explanation for why the finches' beaks are so crucial to their survival: their primary food source is a tiny, rock-hard seed. There is also a very funny passage on how the Grants discovered what male finches find sexually attractive.
A pleasant and engrossing read for the serious or semi-serious naturalist. Recommended for those who enjoyed Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World.
If biodiversity and evolution was ever taught in narrative and exposition, this would be on the syllabus, and it would be the class favorite.