The Darwinian Tourist: Viewing the World Through Evolutionary Eyes

The Darwinian Tourist: Viewing the World Through Evolutionary Eyes

Christopher Wills

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0199584389

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In this magnificently illustrated book, Christopher Wills takes us on a series of adventures. From the underwater life of Indonesia's Lambeh Strait to a little valley in northern Israel, to an earthquake in the coral reef off the island of Yap and the dry valleys of western Mongolia, Wills demonstrates how ecology and evolution have interacted to yield the world we live in.

Each chapter features a different location and brings out a different and important message. With the author's own stunning photographs of the wildlife he discovered on his travels, he draws out the evolutionary stories behind the wildlife and shows how our understanding of the living world can be deepened by a Darwinian perspective. Wills demonstrates how looking at the world with evolutionary eyes leaves us with a renewed sense of wonder about life's astounding present-day diversity, along
with an appreciation of our evolutionary history.

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evolutionary lineage. They are so astonishing in so many ways that it will be most instructive to spend a little time with the hoatzins. Raucous hoatzin colonies are common along the rivers of the Amazon basin, and they are best seen from a boat. I first encountered these cheerful if feckless birds on the margins of the Manù River, a tributary of the upper Amazon, in a relatively undisturbed part of the vast rainforest that lies east of the Andes in Peru. Hoatzins are the punk rockers of birds.

the “wings” off dipterocarp seeds in Sabah’s Danum Valley. 114. Batek tribespeople who live on the edge of Taman Negara National Park in peninsular Malaysia. 115. Kayan woman from the Mulu River area of central Borneo. 116. Rungus longhouse, northern Borneo. 117. Rungus woman playing nose flute, northern Borneo. 118. Scaffolds used by poachers of birds’ nests dot the immense Niah Caves of Sarawak. 119. A graceful dancing woman painted on a Niah Cave wall about 2,500 years ago. 120. Dawn breaks in

the west. And humans have accelerated this invasion of the placentals, by introducing deer and monkey species to Lombok and Sulawesi. The chaotic geology of Indonesia has resulted in an encounter between highly divergent groups of organisms, one that would not have happened if Australia and New Guinea had kept moving to the east instead of veering to the north. Life in this part of the world has survived literally thousands of geological catastrophes—vast volcanic eruptions, immense tidal waves,

unprecedented in its scope and detail. Hubbell and Foster got the OK for this immense project. They picked an almost completely untouched piece of tropical forest, half a square kilometer in size, on Barro Colorado Island in Panama’s Gatun Lake. There was already a Smithsonian tropical research center on the island, where students from all over the world study tropical ecology. And the island, surrounded by the artificial lake that had been flooded between 1907 and 1913 to form a major part of the

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