The science of beaks


These beaks have fascinated many a scientist since Darwin. They belong to small birds, finches, living in the isolated Galapagos Archipelago -- a place so small and remote that few species have discovered it. Darwin was fascinated by the diversity of the birds’ features.

Much later, Peter Grant – a McGill professor in the 1960s and ‘70s -- went to the Galapagos to follow the birds’ evolution, measuring precisely beaks’ shape and size, to better understand hybridization between finch species. Grant’s resulting 1993 article reported observations made over the course of 20 years. His work is now considered one of the landmark studies of evolution in action.

Prof. Graham Bell looks back at this great science story in the 350th special anniversary issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.