Unnatural Selection


Out of Print
Unnatural Selection Author: Format: Hardback First Published: Published By: Princeton University Press
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Pages: 304 Illustrations and other contents: 150 b/w illus. ISBN: 9780691157061 Category:

A lavishly illustrated look at how evolution plays out in selective breeding

Unnatural Selection is a stunningly illustrated book about selective breeding–the ongoing transformation of animals at the hand of man. More important, it’s a book about selective breeding on a far, far grander scale?a scale that encompasses all life on Earth. We’d call it evolution.

A unique fusion of art, science, and history, this book celebrates the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s monumental work The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, and is intended as a tribute to what Darwin might have achieved had he possessed that elusive missing piece to the evolutionary puzzle?the knowledge of how individual traits are passed from one generation to the next. With the benefit of a century and a half of hindsight, Katrina van Grouw explains evolution by building on the analogy that Darwin himself used?comparing the selective breeding process with natural selection in the wild, and, like Darwin, featuring a multitude of fascinating examples.

This is more than just a book about pets and livestock, however. The revelation of Unnatural Selection is that identical traits can occur in all animals, wild and domesticated, and both are governed by the same evolutionary principles. As van Grouw shows, animals are plastic things, constantly changing. In wild animals the changes are usually too slow to see?species appear to stay the same. When it comes to domesticated animals, however, change happens fast, making them the perfect model of evolution in action.

Suitable for the lay reader and student, as well as the more seasoned biologist, and featuring more than four hundred breathtaking illustrations of living animals, skeletons, and historical specimens, Unnatural Selection will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in natural history and the history of evolutionary thinking.

Weight2.05 kg



"It is the human-wrought marvel of selective breeding, applied to a dizzying array of domestic fauna, that is at the heart of Katrina van Grouw's Unnatural Selection. This massive and breathtakingly beautiful book uses artificial selection-the means by which breeders promote desired traits, turning 'tame populations into more beautiful, more useful, more productive, more efficient, or simply different versions'-to elucidate the processes of evolution itself."---Julie Zickefoose, Wall Street Journal "A brilliant concept that is quite stunning in its presentation and execution. . . . Katrina's writing is full of passion and excitement for her subject. It is also intelligent, fluid, witty and easily read & understood."---Phil Slade, Another Bird Blog "[A] witty, exquisitely illustrated book."---Alison Abbott, Nature "Unnatural Selection feels like an homage to the standards of a bygone publishing age, through its large-format pages and its use of heavy sepia-coloured paper, but especially in van Grouw's lovingly detailed monochrome drawings."---Mark Cocker, Spectator "Her drawings have to be seen to be believed. . . . Fabulous and irresistible. Van Grouw is a genius. . . . With its immense ambition and staggering graphics, this is a tricky book to summarize - but its author's extraordinary talent is one that demands and deserves an audience."---Rob Innes, Cage & Aviary Birds "With its generous format and abundant illustrations, this book might seem to be for leafing through, but you will inevitably find yourself reading it. As appealing as they are instructive, the pictures inexorably draw even the most casual of coffee table book page flickers into the text. . . . Few are the books that can be recommended with equal enthusiasm to birders, dog owners, biology students, poultry breeders, and the merely (merely!) curious, but Unnatural Selection is one of them. No matter what your interest, this book, with its sophisticated but accessible text and its captivating illustrations, will be one of the highlights of your reading year."---Rick Wright, Vermilion Flycatcher "I don't think it would be an understatement to say that this is the book I've been waiting for all my life. . . . The very fact it can be understood by all is a real credit to the author who has well and truly done her research."---Grant Brereton, Fancy Fowl "van Grouw's beautiful anatomical illustrations are as informative and scientifically rigorous as a statistical plot but also as aesthetically pleasing as the pieces hanging in an art gallery. . . . van Grouw is perfectly placed to communicate in a way that is conversational but also precise, confidently knowledgeable, and often poetic. It seems too easy to make a comparison with Darwin, yet it would be remiss not to."---Caitlin R. Kight, Trends in Ecology & Evolution "A hefty, gorgeous, yet serious, book . . . stuffed with Katrina's exquisitely observed pencil drawings. . . . A remarkable portrayal of the wonder of artificial selection-an ancient process that's still going on today."---Ben Hoare, BBC Wildlife Magazine "Whether you are an artist, illustrator, zoologist, pet-enthusiast or simply curious, you will be intrigued, educated and inspired by this extraordinary book."---Tim Birkenhead, Archives of Natural History "You don't need to be a scientist, veterinarian, scientific illustrator or artist to fall deeply, madly in love with this painstakingly accurate, stunning book."---Grrl Scientist, Forbes "Careful (or, perhaps, casual) selection and cross breeding has produced chickens and pigeons of almost any shape and color. How and why this happens, driven by our quest for novelty often expressed in competition (the fair), is explained in text as revealing as [van Grouw's] drawings . . . . Her books are guides to natural worlds otherwise unseen."---Jim Williams, StarTribune Wingnut Blog

Author Biography

Katrina van Grouw, author of The Unfeathered Bird (Princeton), inhabits that no-man's-land midway between art and science. She holds degrees in fine art and natural history illustration and is a former curator of ornithological collections at a major national museum. She's a self-taught scientist with a passion for evolutionary biology and its history.