Basic evolutionary biology for birders

The video contained in this page was a webinar on Learn-the-Birds in October, 2020.

Birds have played a critically important role in the origin of the theory of evolution by natural selection, and continue to play a significant role in both our understanding of evolutionary biology and some of its core controversies that continue to this day. Yet, if you look at most of the books that are written for birders, this central element of biology, and the foundation of our understanding of the living world scarcely rates a mention, if at all.

An understanding of the selective pressures that act on birds, the way in which these pressures have shaped the birds that we all enjoy, the nature of speciation and diversity, and the long term history of birds over geological time would greatly enhance our birding experience.

Dr Derek Keats has been a biology professor for over 20 years, has discovered several species new to science (not birds, alas), and even has a species named after him. His studies have encompassed ecology, systematics and phylogeny. He has published more than 100 magazine articles, in which he has brought science and nature to lay persons. He will use his communication skills to present the topic of evolutionary biology for birders in a down to earth way that is free from as much jargon as possible.

Topics covered include:
• The role of birds in the discovery of natural selection
• What is natural selection anyway / What is fitness?
• Sexual selection, Darwin’s other theory and the role of birds
• Sexual selection by mate choice: birds in a core controversy of evolutionary biology
• What are species and are they even real
• The awful immensity and shortness of time
• How species form
• Evolutionary trees from DNA and how we recognise modern bird species
• Whence cometh our birds
• Convergent evolution
• Evolution is still going on


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