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Bird colonization


An analysis of the birds of North America
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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Every fauna, every… the animal life of a given area is always a mixture of things that have immigrated from various sites. Now, I did an analysis of the birds of North America for instance, and showed which ones had come in at an early time from Asia, at a later time from Asia. I didn't point out… because that's the one thing… the plate tectonics has changed our thinking… I didn't point out that there was a colonization across the North Atlantic, but I also analyzed how much of a colonization there had been from South America and vice versa, how much of a colonization of South America had taken place from North America. And then later on I followed this up once more and did it by families and established for each family where it had come from, whether from the tropical or the temperate zone part of North America, or had come all the way from Asia, and I think the basic analysis that I did in these two papers has never been questioned or changed.

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: North America, Asia, North Atlantic, South America

Duration: 1 minute, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008