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Darwin’s Finches

Darwin’s Finches


Part of DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival 2021


In the “Origin of Species” Charles Darwin established a scientific basis for understanding how evolution occurs by natural selection. To explain how species form, he envisioned a three-step process: colonization, involving the expansion of a population into a new environment; divergence, when populations become adapted to novel environmental conditions through natural selection; and finally, the formation of a barrier to interbreeding between divergent lineages. He showed characteristic insight by suggesting that investigations of what we now call, “very young adaptive radiations” might provide windows through which we can view the processes involved.

Since Darwin’s time, insights from the fields of genetics, behaviour, and ecology have continued to illuminate how and why species evolve. In this talk, Professors Grant and Grant will discuss the progress that has been made in their understanding of speciation with special reference to the young radiation of Darwin’s Finches on the Galápagos Islands. They draw upon the results of a long-term field study of finch populations spanning several decades, combined with laboratory investigations of the molecular genetic basis of beak development and variation.

Professors Peter and Rosemary Grant of Princeton University, USA have been studying Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos islands since 1973. Their research has been published in four books, most recently How and Why Species Multiply (2008).

The lecture will take place over Zoom, with a curated Q&A session to follow.

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