Menno Schilthuizen

Het mysterie der mysteriën

Over evolutie en vooruitgang

Speciation – the evolution of new species

What are biological species? Why are there tens of millions of species on earth and not one million or a couple of thousand? Was Darwin right that adaptations come about through the effect of natural selection? How does a species split into two new ones? Is this phenomenon, the central theme in the theory of evolution, one which Darwin referred to as the mystery of mysteries, still unsolved? Is there one single origin of species or are they created in various ways? How different is different?

Evolutionary biologists wrestle with all these questions and have written books on the subject, but mostly for a select company of biology freaks, not for the layman. The man in the street wants answers to questions like: is it true that life just came into being at one point and that the tens of millions of species of bacteria, plants, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals that now populate the earth ultimately originated from one monocellular ancestral species? Or, why there are many millions of species of insects, but only a few hundred primate species? Do insects divide more easily into new species?

This interested layman will turn, disappointed, to one of the books for a broader public, where he will be disappointed yet again; he has long been familiar with the general knowledge and orthodox standpoints to which the science-writers restrict themselves in these publications. He will also be irritated by the avoidance of difficult issues which leaves him still unable to fathom what is really going on. Schilthuizen’s Frogs, Flies and Dandelions is not only suitable for the practising nature conservationist, it is tailor-made for the keen layman.

Schilthuizen need not skirt difficult issues, as he is able to explain them so clearly. He doesn’t just summarise other people’s work; he has an outspoken, unorthodox vision, which goes against the predominant gospel the great evolutionary biologist, Ernst Mayr, has evangelised for more than half a century. Schilthuizen contests Mayr’s ideas on the basis of dozens of enlightening examples. He informs, stimulates, provokes, irritates, but more than anything, he inspires.

This is a charming book about a subject that Darwin called ‘that mystery of mysteries’, a subject that is still one of the most fascinating conundrums in biology.

Jonathan Fineiner, author of <em>The Beak Of The Finch</em>

An inspiring book.

NRC Handelsblad

Menno Schilthuizen is able to write about his profession concisely, convincingly and whimsically. He is the nearest thing to Richard Dawkins or Stephen Jay Gould in the Dutch language.

De Morgen


Menno Schilthuizen

Menno Schilthuizen is Associate Professor at the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation at the Malaysia Sabah University on Borneo. His research focuses on taxonomy and evolutionary biology, particularly land snails, dung and carrion beetles and parasitic wasps. He is also a member of the…

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Het mysterie der mysteriën. Over evolutie en vooruitgang (2002). Non-fictie, 239 pagina's.

with illustrations, notes and references


Oxford University Press

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Oxford OX2 6DP
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1865 556 767
Fax: +44 1865 5353 429

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