Today: Rosemary Grant gives an online talk on speciation

Rosemary Grant, along with her partner Peter Grant at Princeton, have done pathbreaking work on speciation, particularly in the finches of the Galápagos islands. (They’re a close team, and even share one Wikipedia page). Their work, for example, has revealed unexpected levels of hybridization between what were considered “good” species, and of course the duo, along with their students, are responsible for one of the classic demonstrations of natural selection in action: an evolutionary increase in beak size in Geospiza fortis following a drought that decimated small plants, leading to starvation of smaller finches with beaks that couldn’t handle bigger and harder seeds. Their work on the finches is described in the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner (1994).

At any rate, Rosemary is giving an online talk on speciation today, as announced by the tweet below.

The talk will take place between 5-6 pm British standard time, 11am-12 noon Chicago time, and 12 noon-1 pm. Eastern Daylight Time. It’s sure to be enlightening, and I’m pretty sure it will be accessible to non-biologists. And you can access it by clicking on the link below, which will take you to YouTube directly.



  1. Ken Pidcock
    Posted May 27, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Some years ago, HHMI produced a nice short documentary on their work, “The Beak of the Finch”.

  2. Posted May 27, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Bearing in mind that I left school fifty years ago when Biology had one percent of the knowledge it has today, perhaps Professor Ceiling Cat can throw light upon a small puzzle. The Wiki page says that Natural Selection is demonstrated within a lifetime of a finch, and even in a couple of years…
    Does this mean that the only possible changes in a couple of years would be the death of finches who could not crack and eat the larger and harder seeds?
    I am sitting in my garden in France listening to golden orioles, driven north by Global Warming…


    • Posted May 27, 2020 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      No, there was differential mortality based on size, but the selection caused evolutionary changes as the trait “beak size” is significantly heritable, and so the next generation of finches after the drought had bigger beaks. But maybe I’m not answering your question.

    • Posted May 27, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      It seems like a particularly poor choice to describe the time frame of evolutionary change. It makes it sound like a finch’s beak changes size during its lifetime. I guess it does as it grows up but that’s even more of a misdirection.

  3. Posted May 27, 2020 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I loved “Beak of the Finch”. I wonder what happened to their child (daughter?) who was with them on the Galapagos?

  4. Raskos
    Posted May 27, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this, PCC(E). I’m going to be talking about this issue in my summer session evolution course, and a link to Grant’s talk will definitely be on the syllabus now. Greatly appreciated!

  5. Posted May 27, 2020 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I listened to the talk, and while it was a good summary of a fantastic project on Daphne Major, the results were quite specific to this system, and I wouldn’t say that they apply generally. The “new lineage” created by the one immigrant is almost certainly not a species, but rather an assortatively mating population that persisted for four generations. We have human populations like that, but we don’t call them species.

  6. Eduardo
    Posted May 27, 2020 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful talk, and so interesting. I’ve been keeping an eye on the Grants’ work for years, it’s so nice it keeps bearing fruit.

  7. Gary
    Posted May 27, 2020 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I did not watch the talk, but I have a fun coincidence to tell. I happen to live across the street from one of the Grant’s daughters. Peter and Rosemary come to visit her a couple of times per year, usually on their way to or from some far flung lecture location. I see them on their walks in the neighborhood and they always stop to chat. Simply delightful people. Their daughter has some good stories about what it was like growing up a child in their camp on Daphne Major.

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