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Unnatural Selection [Print Replica] Kindle Edition
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"van Grouw’s beautiful anatomical illustrations are as informative and scientifically rigorous as a statistical plot but also as aesthetically pleasing as the pieces hanging in an art gallery. . . . van Grouw is perfectly placed to communicate in a way that is conversational but also precise, confidently knowledgeable, and often poetic. It seems too easy to make a comparison with Darwin, yet it would be remiss not to."---Caitlin R. Kight, Trends in Ecology & Evolution
"A hefty, gorgeous, yet serious, book . . . stuffed with Katrina’s exquisitely observed pencil drawings. . . . A remarkable portrayal of the wonder of artificial selection―an ancient process that’s still going on today."---Ben Hoare, BBC Wildlife Magazine
"You don’t need to be a scientist, veterinarian, scientific illustrator or artist to fall deeply, madly in love with this painstakingly accurate, stunning book."---Grrl Scientist, Forbes
"A brilliant concept that is quite stunning in its presentation and execution. . . . Katrina’s writing is full of passion and excitement for her subject. It is also intelligent, fluid, witty and easily read & understood."---Phil Slade, Another Bird Blog
"It is the human-wrought marvel of selective breeding, applied to a dizzying array of domestic fauna, that is at the heart of Katrina van Grouw’s Unnatural Selection. This massive and breathtakingly beautiful book uses artificial selection―the means by which breeders promote desired traits, turning ‘tame populations into more beautiful, more useful, more productive, more efficient, or simply different versions’―to elucidate the processes of evolution itself."---Julie Zickefoose, Wall Street Journal
"I don’t think it would be an understatement to say that this is the book I’ve been waiting for all my life. . . . The very fact it can be understood by all is a real credit to the author who has well and truly done her research."---Grant Brereton, Fancy Fowl
"With its generous format and abundant illustrations, this book might seem to be for leafing through, but you will inevitably find yourself reading it. As appealing as they are instructive, the pictures inexorably draw even the most casual of coffee table book page flickers into the text. . . . Few are the books that can be recommended with equal enthusiasm to birders, dog owners, biology students, poultry breeders, and the merely (merely!) curious, but Unnatural Selection is one of them. No matter what your interest, this book, with its sophisticated but accessible text and its captivating illustrations, will be one of the highlights of your reading year."---Rick Wright, Vermilion Flycatcher
"[A] witty, exquisitely illustrated book."---Alison Abbott, Nature
"Careful (or, perhaps, casual) selection and cross breeding has produced chickens and pigeons of almost any shape and color. How and why this happens, driven by our quest for novelty often expressed in competition (the fair), is explained in text as revealing as [van Grouw’s] drawings . . . . Her books are guides to natural worlds otherwise unseen."---Jim Williams, StarTribune Wingnut Blog --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- Publication Date : July 31, 2018
- File Size : 56757 KB
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Print Length : 304 pages
- Publisher : Princeton University Press (July 31, 2018)
- ASIN : B077Z9CNYC
- Language: : English
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Not Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,548,598 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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"Unnatural Selection" written and illustrated by Katrina van Grouw was not what I expected it to be. I did not investigate it at all before ordering it, mostly on the basis of the title alone, and the three nice bird skeletons on the cover.
Katrina Van Grouw was formerly curator of the bird skin collection at the British Museum, and also has a fine arts degree in scientific illustration. She is married to Hein Von Grouw, Senior Curator of Birds at the Natural History Museum of the Netherlands; he is also a pigeon fancier and breeder.
All of this prepared Katrina to write this book, which, in her words: “This book is intended, with the benefit of a century and a half of hindsight, to be something akin to what Darwin might have produced as “Variation under Domestication” had he only had that elusive missing key – an understanding of how selection works.” Thus, Darwin’s first chapter in Origin of Species was little more than a statement of the problem, while his book “The Variation of Plants and Animals Under Domestication” wrestled at length with a problem he could not and did not solve.
In this book, Von Grouw uses artificial selection, with which the general public is much more familiar, and comfortable with, than they are with Natural Selection, as a platform to show how the underlying processes are the same. She divides the book into 4 sections: Origin, Inheritance, Variation and Selection. Her explanations these facets of unnatural (artificial) selection and natural selection are simple, yet at the same time elegant. As a vertebrate morphologist (hard parts, mostly), and not having the background in genetics I might wish I had, I learned quite a bit from her presentation.
An important point about this book is that it is well, I’d say, lavishly illustrated with high quality images – and not a single photograph. Von Grouw’s drawings are marvelously detailed; all of the skulls, skeletons, live (and dead) animals but one were drawn from the actual specimens. I include an image of my favorite drawing – a drawer of boxes each containing one of Darwin’s own pigeon skeletons. The drawings aren’t numbered; there are certainly several hundred, all well captioned.
I think that even by evolutionary biologist colleagues would enjoy this book; those teaching may well find examples to help illustrate their teaching in a way not available to them before. And anyone interested in learning – really learning – about evolution could not find a better book. I highly recommend it without reservation.
I am particularly fascinated by how, over time, naming and categorizing becomes less relevant as the appearance of a breed is altered by each generation. These are important questions to consider when we think about the impact that humans have on animal species, but it can also be applied to other areas such as politics, religion and even restaurant chains!
The beauty of the drawings alone make this a valuable collectors piece, but it also provides hours of stimulating contemplation.
However, instead of the insightful content presented in 'Unfeathered bird', this book tries to be a few things, but ends up being a great disappointment to me. It's basic message, that selective breeding echoes evolutionary processes in nature is undisputed given that analogous mechanisms are at work (natural selection is replaced by a breeder 'discarding' unwanted animals, etc.) - no excitement there... Ample and repetitive examples are given. There are many better books on the history of Darwinism, there are many better books on the mechanisms of evolution, so this ends up being a curio-cabinet of oddly shaped animals ('puppy with two tails in a jar') illustrating various points. The book would also have greatly benefited from footnotes instead of the many personal asides in brackets, from full references and diagrams to illustrate some of the genetic relationships.
Perhaps most disturbing is the objectification of animals which is truly reminiscent of a 19th century collector. Animals are object of modification for the purpose of curiosity, aesthetic preference of the 'fancier', etc. If they die or have to be culled, oh well, death happens in nature, too, so it's O.K. The author should take into account that we as 'moral beings' have a choice in our actions, natural processes don't. Animal welfare does get a mention here and there, but is generally played down, e.g., the author is misinformed thinking that commercial broiler chickens are merely 'severely restricted in their mobility' (p. 170), no, they are unable to survive to adulthood unless they are kept on a restricted diet so they don't break their bones from excess weight.
There are many important issues around selective breeding beyond what the author chose to illustrate and attempt to discuss. As it is, the book feels like a missed opportunity with great artwork to me.
Great for all ages, even little ones that can't read yet.
Top reviews from other countries
But that's not all it has going for it: the accompanying text is written for any level of understanding and has certainly taught me a thing or two I didn't already know. It explains aspects of evolution and anatomy through our understanding of how humans have shaped animal breeds, which I found to be an engrossing and innovative take on the topic.
As a tribute (and sort of sequel) to Darwin's 'The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication' it absolutely blows everything out of the water. Darwin would be seriously impressed by this book, no doubt about it.
On first glance it may look like a ‘coffee table’ book, but that would be to do it a severe injustice. Yes, it is big, and with a lot of ‘pictures’, but there the similarity ends. The ‘pictures’ are hand drawn illustrations that are referenced in the text as demonstration of the author’s point. Each one is drawn from referencing the actual skeleton, prepared and wired by Van Grouw’s husband, then posed to give a surprisingly lifelike demeanour to a skeleton! The monochrome artwork, with its attention to detail, and labelled with beautiful calligraphy, is somehow ‘more real’ than a mere photograph would be. Some have the ‘living’ animal drawn alongside, so you can see how the flesh reflects the skeleton.
And then there is the text. Because this is much more than just a book of diagrams. Van Grouw is a self-taught biologist; in fact the way she describes her husband breeding pigeons to achieve a certain result, to test a certain theory, is reminiscent of the ‘amateur gentleman scientist’s’ that make up the narrative of the text, such as how Darwin wrote to breeders of domestic animals across the world to ask questions to inform his own theories of evolution. She avoids the simplistic ‘Darwin saw finches then realised’ type explanations, rather she uses her experiences of learning to make it easier for the reader to understand the complex interrelations of genetics. Rather than lecture from the front of the auditorium, as some other, more famous, evolutionists do in their books, Van Grouw takes the reader’s hand and shows them what she sees.
“Unnatural Selection”, of course refers to the fact that she is concentrating on how man has shaped animals by breeding for particular traits. Rather than undermining natural evolution, she demonstrates that this allowed the Darwins and Wallaces of the world to watch their theories in action, thus advancing their knowledge. She also takes time to chronicle the missed chances, such as Darwin failing to solve heritability because he hadn’t realised Mendel was conducting experiments, how Mendel’s work was lost for a generation, and how scientific rivalries delayed advances that would have been found if they had worked together. It is not just about evolution, but the evolution of evolution, as it were.
It is a beautiful, well presented and eminently readable book, that would be a good place to start for anyone interested in evolution past the simplified version we got at school.
Her first book, The Unfeathered Bird, was an absolute triumph and this one has at least matched it in every respect.
The book is well structured and leads the reader through the maze of human induced “evolution” in a way that is both insightful and intelligent. Always accessible but never patronising - the occasional flash of humour is a delightful seasoning to a fine dish. The illustrations are clear, beautiful and vastly more informative that any photograph could hope to be.
Having read the Unfeathered Bird I expected the artwork to be jaw-dropping and of course it was but it was so well written-informative, quirky and funny. Dry science this is not and it is completely accessible to the non-scientist. As a poultry breeder and exhibitor I learned so much reading it-it’s probably my most heavily annotated book (and that’s up against a lot of competition). She has successfully reintegrated the creation and development of domesticated species into the wider debates on evolution and elevated their status.