Top positive review
Evolution, Up Close & Personal
on September 24, 2009
The story of Rosemary and Peter Grant's twenty-year study of the finches of the Galapagos islands goes far beyond ornithology and even beyond biology: the author contends that the Grants have successfully observed the birds evolving under stressful conditions to become better adapted to their environment. That claim may be disputed, but the book is a great adventure story of science under brutal conditions--the most barren of islands, so rugged that just landing on it is potentially fatal. The description of how the study was conceived and carried out is woven into the Grants' own personal story and the whole is placed into the context of the history of evolutionary theory, told in an intelligent and entertaining style. The book ends with some comparisons of other similar attempts to observe evolution, and the arguments are compelling that the Grants have succeeded in doing so.
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.