Darwin’s birds get new look

tags: NYT, genetics, Charles Darwin, evolution

In 1855, Charles Darwin took up a new hobby. He started raising pigeons....

Pigeon breeding, Darwin argued, was an analogy for what happened in the wild. Nature played the part of the fancier, selecting which individuals would be able to reproduce. Natural selection might work more slowly than human breeders, but it had far more time to produce the diversity of life around us.

Yet to later generations of biologists, pigeons were of little more interest than they are to, say, New Yorkers. Attention shifted to other species, like fruit flies and E. coli.

Now Michael D. Shapiro, a biologist at the University of Utah, is returning pigeons to the spotlight....

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