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By Mark Ridley

ISBN-10: 1405103450

ISBN-13: 9781405103459

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Example text

Tree holes also make safe sites to build a nest. Woodpeckers have many other design features as well as their beaks. Within the beak is a long, probing tongue, which is well adapted to extract insects from inside a tree hole. They have a stiff tail that is used as a brace, short legs, and their feet have long curved toes for gripping on to the bark; they even have a special type of molting in which the strong central pair of feathers (that are crucial in bracing) are saved and molted last. The beak and body design of the woodpecker is adaptive.

Weismann initially suggested that practically all evolution was driven by natural selection, but he later retreated from this position. Around the turn of the century, Weismann was a highly influential figure, but few biologists shared his belief in natural selection. Some, such as the British entomologist Edward Bagnall Poulton, were studying natural selection. However, the majority view was that natural selection needed to be supplemented by other processes. An influential history of biology written by Erik Nordenskiöld in 1929 could even take it for granted that Darwin’s theory was wrong.

The question of how species originate is closely related to the questions of population genetics, and Fisher, Haldane, and Wright had all discussed it. Dobzhansky and Huxley emphasized the problem even more. They all reasoned that the kinds of changes studied by population geneticists, if they took place in geographically separated populations, could cause the populations to diverge and eventually evolve into distinct species (Chapter 14). The classic work, however, was by Ernst Mayr: Systematics and the Origin of Species (1942).

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Evolution, 3rd Edition by Mark Ridley


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