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The creation of Dolly the sheep in the 1990s was for many people the start of a new era: the age of genetically modified animals. However, the idea was not new for in the 1920s an amateur scientist, Hans Duncker, decided to genetically engineer a red canary. Though his experiments failed, they paved the way for others to succeed when it was recognised that the canary needed to be both a product of nature and nurture. This highly original narrative, of huge contemporary relevance, reveals how the obsession with turning the wild canary from green to red heralded the exciting but controversial developments in genetic manipulation.
A lavishly illustrated look at how evolution plays out in selective breeding Unnatural Selection is a stunningly illustrated book about selective breeding--the ongoing transformation of animals at the hand of man. More important, it's a book about selective breeding on a far, far grander scale—a scale that encompasses all life on Earth. We'd call it evolution. A unique fusion of art, science, and history, this book celebrates the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's monumental work The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, and is intended as a tribute to what Darwin might have achieved had he possessed that elusive missing piece to the evolutionary puzzle—the knowledge of how individual traits are passed from one generation to the next. With the benefit of a century and a half of hindsight, Katrina van Grouw explains evolution by building on the analogy that Darwin himself used—comparing the selective breeding process with natural selection in the wild, and, like Darwin, featuring a multitude of fascinating examples. This is more than just a book about pets and livestock, however. The revelation of Unnatural Selection is that identical traits can occur in all animals, wild and domesticated, and both are governed by the same evolutionary principles. As van Grouw shows, animals are plastic things, constantly changing. In wild animals the changes are usually too slow to see—species appear to stay the same. When it comes to domesticated animals, however, change happens fast, making them the perfect model of evolution in action. Suitable for the lay reader and student, as well as the more seasoned biologist, and featuring more than four hundred breathtaking illustrations of living animals, skeletons, and historical specimens, Unnatural Selection will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in natural history and the history of evolutionary thinking.
Ten Thousand Birds provides a thoroughly engaging and authoritative history of modern ornithology, tracing how the study of birds has been shaped by a succession of visionary and often-controversial personalities, and by the unique social and scientific contexts in which these extraordinary individuals worked. This beautifully illustrated book opens in the middle of the nineteenth century when ornithology was a museum-based discipline focused almost exclusively on the anatomy, taxonomy, and classification of dead birds. It describes how in the early 1900s pioneering individuals such as Erwin Stresemann, Ernst Mayr, and Julian Huxley recognized the importance of studying live birds in the field, and how this shift thrust ornithology into the mainstream of the biological sciences. The book tells the stories of eccentrics like Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, a pathological liar who stole specimens from museums and quite likely murdered his wife, and describes the breathtaking insights and discoveries of ambitious and influential figures such as David Lack, Niko Tinbergen, Robert MacArthur, and others who through their studies of birds transformed entire fields of biology. Ten Thousand Birds brings this history vividly to life through the work and achievements of those who advanced the field. Drawing on a wealth of archival material and in-depth interviews, this fascinating book reveals how research on birds has contributed more to our understanding of animal biology than the study of just about any other group of organisms.
Long before Dolly the Sheep or bioengineered corn, there was the Red Canary-the first organism to be manipulated by genetic technology, back in the 1920s. The effort to produce a red canary invoked all of the deep issues that troubled genetic engineering decades later: the nature of genes and how they work, the specter of eugenics, and the relative roles of nature and nurture in determining what an organism is. Behavioral ecologist Tim Birkhead describes how a sweet-voiced green bird discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1300s became a craze in Renaissance Europe, how breeders gradually turned its green plumage to yellow, and how a pair of German scientists used the first bit of gene technology in the 1920s to produce an almost-red canary. But the true red canary would not come until the 1960s, when British scientists successfully bred one, and genes alone would not be sufficient to create one. A Brand New Bird is a compelling tale of a fascinating episode in the history of genetics.

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