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What happens during speciation?


The two forms of geographic speciation
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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There're two forms of geographic speciation. The classical one is where a continuous range of a species is being interrupted by a newly arising barrier, either a mountain range coming up or arm of the oceans going across or a desert or savanna developing in a forest area, and that is the one that is described in most of the books, at least in the early period from the 1930s on. But as I found in my work on the South Sea island birds, a far more frequent form of speciation is when a species develops a new colony, a founder colony beyond the species range, by some individual crossing over unsuitable terrain on… beyond the species range and establishing this new colony which eventually expands into a large population and, owing to this barrier between it and the mother country and the mother species, eventually develop into a new species, and I called this peripatetic speciation.

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: South Sea, 1930s

Duration: 1 minute, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008