Perfil de Peter Grant no PNAS

sexta-feira, março 26, 2010

Profile of Peter R. Grant

In 1940, as the Second World War escalated, 4-year-old Peter Grant was evacuated from London to a  school in the English countryside on the Surrey–Hampshire border. Far from being traumatized by his sudden relocation, Grant, already a budding naturalist, remembers those years fondly.

“Our school was in the middle of fields with access to a little bit of forest,” he recalls. “I was just fascinated by the great big diversity of organisms that live in the outside world.” Safe from the destruction in London, Grant collected butterflies, watched birds, and identified flowers.

This early experience helped shape his career in ecology and evolutionary biology, which has resulted in some remarkable accomplishments. Grant is now an emeritus professor and Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology at Princeton University (Princeton, NJ). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007.

Grant and his wife Rosemary, who was elected to the Academy in 2008, received the Kyoto Prize in Japan in December 2009. No strangers to international acclaim, the Grants are also members of the Royal Society of London, the Royal Society of Canada, and have won the Royal Society Darwin Medal, the Darwin-Wallace Medal of the Linnean Society, and the Balzan Foundation Prize.

Grant’s Inaugural Article in the November 16, 2009 issue of PNAS details both the random and deterministic processes that can influence the development of a species (1). Grant and his wife observed the immigration in 1981 of a medium ground finch (Geospiza fortis) to Daphne Major, the small volcanic island in the Galápagos chain that has played host to much of the couple’s research. The lone bird was unusual in many respects; it sang an atypical song, was larger than similar birds, had a pointed, oversized beak, and contained alleles that marked it as a hybrid.

The Grants followed the fate of this finch and its descendents for 28 years. In the fourth generation, a severe drought on Daphne Major reduced the lineage to one male and one female; these two birds then bred with each other. The descendents of this pair in the next two generations mated only with each other.

“We witnessed the origin of reproductive isolation,” Grant explains, “and if Darwin were alive, he would declare the lineage to be a new species.”


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