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Two levels of evolution


Sympatric speciation
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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In 1942 I had, what I thought was thoroughly, refuted the frequency of sympatric speciation, in fact I said even though it is possible there really aren't any good cases. Well, in the 20 years or 25 years after my book, various entomologists again began to promote the idea of frequency of sympatric speciation. Well, I had in 1949… in 1947 a detailed analysis of what is needed in order for sympatric speciation to be successful, and what I said at that time was still valid at that time. But, eventually, more and more people talked about sympatric speciation and it is now a wide open question, particularly since a entire new group of organisms has been found that seems to have frequent sympatric speciation, and that is freshwater fishes. And there are numerous people working on this now, papers appearing every… oh, every year several papers in the thing, so that I have to simply say that even though I had never questioned the possibility of sympatric speciation, the actual demonstration of it which was not yet… had not yet been done in 1942 is beginning to come very close to being done.

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: 1942, 1947, 1949

Duration: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008