in Action: Darwin's Finches of the Galápagos Islands
R. Grant & Rosemary Grant
of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Beak of the Finch, Peter
and Rosemary Grant discuss their 20 years of fascinating research
into evolution, ecology and behavior among Darwin's Finches of the
Galápagos Islands. Distinguished Visting Fellows in the College
of Creative Studies, the Grants are professors at Princeton University.
In his profound and elegantly written book, Weiner follows the progress
of the Grants during their decades-long study on Daphne Major, an island
in the Galápagos archipelago, where Darwin conceived of his theory
of evolution. Their observations of Darwin's Finches ultimately lead
them to a new understanding of life itself.
On an island characterized by sheer cliffs and no fresh water, and devoid
of human interference into natural selection, the Grants documented some
13 species of "Darwin's Finches," including one that is flightless;
one that cohabits with marine iguanas; one (the vampire finch) that lives
on blood; one that is entirely vegetarian; and one (the cactus finch)
that makes tools with its beak.
The Grants caught and banded thousands of finches and traced their elaborate
lineage, enabling them to document the changes that individual species
make, primarily to their beaks, in reaction to the environment. During
prolonged drought, for instance, beaks may become longer and sharper,
to reach the tiniest of seeds.
Peter and Rosemary Grant began their investigation of evolutionary change
among Darwin's Finches in 1973. They have studied more than 25 generations
of finches—more than 19,000 individual birds. The Galápagos
finches have been perfect objects of study because of their tameness
and the simplicity of their undisturbed habitats.
Peter Grant writes, "I seek an understanding of the origin of new
species, their ecological interactions, their persistence in different
communities and their ultimate extinction." He is currently investigating
the causes, frequency and consequences of hybridization and inbreeding.
In addition, he is trying to make sense of patterns of Darwin's Finch
diversification. He says of himself, his partner/wife and their students, "Our
current work is aimed at illuminating the details and causes of early
branching in the tree of Darwin's Finches.".
recording date and length: 5-21-01 ~ 1 Hour 26 Minutes
Catalog No.: 3400-C