399px-Ernst Mayr - Büste - Museum für Naturkunde - Berlin

Ernst Mayr - Bust - Museum für Naturkunde - Berlin. Image Credit: Avda. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

In our section I helped lead the discussion on speciation. As I was reading around one of the names that kept popping up was Ernst Mayr's. I feel that his contributions to the understanding of evolution (and speciation in particular) are remarkable.  It would be impossible to encompass his life in a brief wiki page such as this, but a good starting point might be this essay Mayr wrote in 2004  (at age 100!) titled: 80 Years of Watching the Evolutionary Scenery.   Here's one passage from that article that speaks to speciation:

2000 Interview with Ernst Mayr, Harvard University28:48

2000 Interview with Ernst Mayr, Harvard University

"There is something else that has indeed affected our understanding of the living world: that is its immense diversity. Most of the enormous variation of kinds of organisms has so far been totally ignored by the students of speciation. We have studied the origin of new species in birds, mammals, and certain genera of fishes, lepidopterans, and molluscs, and speciation has been observed to be allopatric (geographical) in most of the studied groups. Admittedly, there have been a few exceptions, particularly in certain families, but no exceptions have been found in birds and mammals where we find good biological species, and speciation in these groups is always allopatric. However, numerous other modes of speciation have also been discovered that are unorthodox in that they differ from allopatric speciation in various ways. Among these other modes are sympatric speciation, speciation by hybridization, by polyploidy and other chromosome rearrangements, by lateral gene transfer, and by symbiogenesis. Some of these nonallopatric modes are quite frequent in certain genera of cold-blooded vertebrates, but they may be only the tip of the iceberg. There are all the other phyla of multicellular eukaryotes, the speciation of most of them still quite unexplored. This is even truer for the 70-plus phyla of unicellular protists and for the prokaryotes. There are whole new worlds to be discovered with, perhaps, new modes of speciation among the forthcoming discoveries" (Mayr, 2004)

Another excellent resource about Mayr's work is the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.  (While there check out the Biodiversity Heritage Library!)  


80 Years of Watching the Evolutionary Scenery. (n.d.). 80 Years of Watching the Evolutionary Scenery. Retrieved November 21, 2013, from

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