2009Basic SciencesBiological Sciences (Evolution, Behavior, Ecology, Environment)
Barbara Rosemary Grant photo

Barbara Rosemary Grant

  • U.K. / October 8, 1936
  • Evolutionary Biologist
  • Professor Emeritus, Princeton University

Demonstrating Rapid Evolution Caused by Natural Selection in Response to Environmental Changes

Through the long-term field study more than 35 years on Darwin's finches on the Galápagos Islands, the Grants demonstrated that morphology and behavior of organisms are altered rapidly by natural selection in response to recurrent environmental changes. Their work has not only made enormous contributions to evolutionary biology and ecology, but also has had a profound influence on the general public through demonstrating the evolution by natural selection in the field.

Profile

Brief Biography

1936
Born in Arnside, U.K.
1960
B.Sc. with Honor, The University of Edinburgh
1985
Ph.D. (Evolutionary Biology), Uppsala University
1960
Research Associate, The University of British Columbia
1964
Research Associate, Yale University
1973
Research Associate, McGill University
1977
Research Associate, University of Michigan
1985
Research Scholar and Lecturer, Princeton University
1997
Senior Research Scholar with rank of Professor, Princeton University
2008
Senior Research Scholar with rank of Professor Emeritus, Princeton University

Selected Awards and Honors

1998
E. O. Wilson Naturalist Award, The American Society of Naturalists
2002
Darwin Medal, The Royal Society of London
2005
Balzan Prize in Population Biology, International Balzan Prize Foundation
2008
The Darwin-Wallace Medal, The Linnean Society of London
Member
The Royal Society of London, National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The Royal Society of Canada

Selected Publications

1976

Darwin’s finches: Population variation and natural selection (Grant, P. R., Grant, B. R., Smith, J. N. M., Abbott, I. J. and Abbott, L. K.). Proceeding National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 73: 257-261, 1976.

1979

Darwin’s finches: Population variation and sympatric speciation (Grant, B. R. and Grant, P. R.). Proceeding National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 76: 2359-2363, 1979.

1989

Evolutionary Dynamics of a Natural Population: The Large Cactus Finch of the Galápagos (Grant, B. R. and Grant , P. R.). University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 350 pp, 1989.

2002

Unpredictable evolution in a 30-year study of Darwin’s finches (Grant, P. R. and Grant, B. R.). Science 296: 707-711, 2002.

2006

Evolution of character displacement in Darwin’s finches (Grant, P. R. and Grant, B. R.). Science 313: 224-226, 2006.

2008

How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches (Grant, P. R. and Grant, B. R.). Princeton University Press, Princeton, 272 pp, 2008.

Citation

Demonstrating Rapid Evolution Caused by Natural Selection in Response to Environmental Changes

Dr. Peter Raymond Grant and Dr. Barbara Rosemary Grant have conducted the long-term field study more than thirty-five years since 1973, on Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands, and demonstrated that morphology and behavior of organisms are altered rapidly by natural selection in response to environmental fluctuations. Their detailed work of evolutionary mechanisms has not only made enormous contributions to evolutionary biology and ecology, but also has had a profound influence on the general public through demonstrating the evolution by natural selection in the field.

The most impressive achievement of the Grants is their detailed study of how, within a dramatically changing natural environment, the beak size and shape of ground finches (genus Geospiza) have evolved rapidly by natural selection, as well as the mechanisms and the condition for the rapid evolution. Although there had been attempts showing natural selection before their work, the Grants were the first to closely trace the evolution taking place in the field for more than thirty-five years, and to study in detail all the aspects related to the evolutionary changes, such as the ecological factors responsible for natural selection, evolutionary responses, the directions in which many traits evolve, and the mechanisms that maintain the genetic variation necessary for evolutionary change. In evolutionary biology, where experimental studies tend to be difficult, the Grants’ empirical research has made the most important contribution since Darwin in making evolutionary biology as a science in which proof is possible.

Through long-term research on Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands, the Grants have also elucidated a variety of evolutionary phenomena. These include the relationship between birdsong and reproductive isolation, genetic correlations among traits and their evolutionary changes, migration to new islands and the founder effect, detection of inbreeding depression in the natural populations, genetic introgression due to hybridization, and character displacement caused by dramatic environmental changes. Their research has set a standard for the field study of evolution, exerting a far-reaching influence on the study of evolution of other organisms.

In addition, the achievements by the Grants have helped to promote an accurate understanding of evolutionary phenomena among the general public. Their work has also suggested the significance of evolutionary biology in coping with the on-going environmental changes. Their contributions to evolutionary biology as a science certainly deserve the highest recognition.

For these reasons, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to present the 2009 Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences to Dr. Peter Raymond Grant and Dr. Barbara Rosemary Grant.

Lecture

Abstract of the Lecture

In Charles Darwin's Footsteps

Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos archipelago for five weeks in 1835. His observations on animals, plants and volcanoes contributed to the development of his revolutionary ideas about evolution by natural selection. Finches, now known as Darwin’s finches, were an important element in his thinking. We have been visiting Galápagos every year for the last 37 years in order to understand in detail how the ancestral species of finch, arriving in the archipelago two to three million years ago, gave rise to the 13 species of Darwin’s finches living there today.

Each of us grew up in England and experienced nature in the countryside. We received our undergraduate training in Britain, then migrated to the University of British Columbia where we met. Many years later, after we had married, obtained a job at McGill University in Canada, and started a family, we launched a program of field research on the Galápagos islands. Our previous training had been different: Peter had specialized in ecology and Rosemary had specialized in genetics. These separate fields of expertise enabled our joint research to be more than the sum of the parts. The interaction between our different ways of thinking about problems gave us greater insights than either of us would have reached alone by staying within our own respective fields.

The research was initially designed to address three questions. First, how do new species form? Second, has competition between species been important in their evolution? Third, why do some populations vary much more than others in characteristics such as beak or body size? To answer them we combined a study of different finch communities on several islands in the archipelago with a study in great detail on the islands of Genovesa for 11 years and Daphne Major for 37 years: patterns in space combined with processes in time. Our most important finding has been that evolution by natural selection can be observed, measured and interpreted, and it occurs repeatedly when the environment changes. Darwin would have been surprised, since he believed that evolution occurred too slowly for anyone to see, but would have been delighted.

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Workshop

Workshop

Evolution, Speciation and Long-Term Field Study

date
Thursday, November 12, 2009
palce
Kyoto International Conference Center
Coordinator and Moderator
Yoh Iwasa [Chairman, Kyoto Prize Selection Committee; Professor, Faculty of Sciences, Kyushu University]
Organized by Inamori Foundation
Supported by Kyoto Prefectural Government, Kyoto City Government, and NHK
With the cooperation of The Ecological Society of Japan, Japan Ethological Society, The Ornithological Society of Japan, Society of Evolutionary Studies, Japan, The Society of Population Ecology, The Society for the Study of Species Biology, The Zoological Society of Japan

Program

13:00
Opening Address Yoh Iwasa
Introduction of Laureates Nanako Shigesada [Member, Kyoto Prize Committee; Professor, Faculty of Culture and Information Science, Doshisha University]
Laureate Lecture Peter Raymond Grant (the Laureate in Basic Sciences)
Barbara Rosemary Grant (the Laureate in Basic Sciences)
"Evolution of Darwin's Finches"
Lecture Hiroshi Nakamura [Professor, Faculty of Education, Shinshu University]
"Cuckoo—Rapid Evolution of Egg-Mimicry—"
Lecture Tetsukazu Yahara [Member, Kyoto Prize Selection Committee; Professor, Faculty of Sciences, Kyushu University]
"Floral Adaptation to Insect Pollinators: An Experimental Study in Daylilies"
Lecture Makoto Kato [Professor, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Kyoto University]
"Obligate Pollination Mutualism Discovered in Phyllanthaceae: Rapid Synergistic Diversification of the Partners"
Lecture Norihiro Okada [Member, Kyoto Prize Committee; Professor, Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology]
"Search for the Mechanisms of Rapid Speciation of Victorian Cichlids"
17:10
Closing
PAGETOP