a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Natural selection


Two levels of evolution
Ernst Mayr Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

We have basically two levels of evolution. We have the level of evolution in which species and populations are involved, and then we have a level that is often referred to as ‘macro-evolution’, that is the origin of whole… whole new types of organisms, the development of new evolutionary inventions, innovations like wings on birds or like swim bladders in fishes or things like that. And there has been a argument among evolutionists, particularly by palaeontologists at… as to whether these macro-evolutionary phenomena that I have just referred to, can also be explained by the same mechanism, by the same populational approach as the… as evolution at the… as micro-evolution at the level of species and populations. And, in my own writings, both in the 1963 book and in the 1970 book and in anything I have published since, I have consistently emphasized that… that there is no break between the two. That all evolution takes place in populations, at least in sexually reproducing organisms, that it is always the either success or not of individuals that is involved, and it doesn't matter whether this is at the level of micro-evolution or in the process that leads to major macro-evolutionary changes. That, I think, for a long time was probably a minority viewpoint although Darwin already had emphasized it and all Darwinian evolutionists had always firmly believed in this. But since the majority of biologists and even… even greater majority of Darwinian lay… non-Darwinian lay people was very great, the belief that macro-evolution can be explained by the Darwinian explanation was, for a long time, the minority viewpoint. But I think and I hope that it is gradually becoming the majority viewpoint, but I have held it consistently.

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: 1963, 1970, Charles Darwin

Duration: 2 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008