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An attack on 'beanbag genetics'


Genetic revolution
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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I referred to this restructuring of the founder population, owing to the… genetic internal imbalance and owing to the… being exposed to this new set of environmental factors, I said that the new… that… that this particular gene pool would undergo a veritable genetic revolution, and that perhaps was a little too strong a term because everybody else objected to it. But what I meant to say, and a few people have accepted that since, that this was a much more rapid and much more drastic…. that such a founder population permitted a much more drastic and much more rapid genetic restructuring than any population that is part of a widespread species. And so, to that extent, my emphasis on the amount of change in such a population and the rapid rate of change is perfectly valid. And that, as I said, is being recognized by some… some people. Now, how important it is, and… and all this sort of thing, a… a lot of work will still have to be done. Experiments have been made to test it, but they were using highly unsuitable material and therefore the last word hasn't been said yet.

The late German-American biologist Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) was a leading light in the field of evolutionary biology, gaining a PhD at the age of 21. He was also a tropical explorer and ornithologist who undertook an expedition to New Guinea and collected several thousand bird skins. In 1931 he accepted a curatorial position at the American Museum of Natural History. During his time at the museum, aged 37, he published his seminal work 'Systematics and Origin of the Species' which integrated the theories of Darwin and Mendel and is considered one of his greatest works.

Listeners: Walter J. Bock

Walter J. Bock is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Columbia University. He received his B.Sc. from Cornell and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. His research lies in the areas of organismal and evolutionary biology, with a special emphasis on functional and evolutionary morphology of the skeleto-muscular system, specifically the feeding apparatus of birds.

Tags: genetics, genes, environment, gene pool, population, species

Duration: 1 minute, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008