Evolution Illustrated by Waterfowl

by Greg Mayer

Since Jerry’s not feeling compelled to write much today, I thought I’d bring to readers’ attentions a must-have book: Evolution Illustrated by Waterfowl, by David Lack.

Many WEIT readers, like Jerry, are devoted anatophiles, which means you’ll want to have this small classic by the great British ornithologist, David Lack. Lack, though later becoming director of the Edward Grey Institute at Oxford, did perhaps his most influential work while an amateur prior to World War II. Employed as a master at Dartington Hall school, he took leave to visit the Galapagos Islands and the California Academy of Sciences, his studies during this time ultimately resulting in his classic book, Darwin’s Finches. (He had already published The Birds of Cambridgeshire and The Life of the Robin.)

David Lack (with glasses) examining a chimney swift nest at Cornell University in 1962. Photo by R.B. Fischer, from Ibis, 1973, Plate 10.

In Evolution Illustrated by Waterfowl, he uses examples from ducks, geese, and swans to illustrate a broad range of evolutionary and ecological phenomena, including adaptation, speciation, convergent evolution, adaptive radiation, and sexual selection, among a wealth of others. The table of contents lays out the breadth of coverage.

Being an inexpensive book from 45 years ago, it does not have color illustrations, but it is illustrated with many fine line drawings and maps by Robert Gillmor, such as the one below, showing the diversity of Australian waterfowl.

So, get your copy today!

Lack, D. 1974. Evolution Illustrated by Waterfowl. Blackwell, Oxford.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 28, 2019 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I like books like this – is it me, or they don’t make them like they used to?

    It sounds like there was only one edition?

    • Posted August 28, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Lack died in 1973 (he had two posthumous books, including this one), so there was only one edition.


  2. Debbie Coplan
    Posted August 28, 2019 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the great book suggestion. I just got a copy from Amazon. Those are wonderful illustrations.
    I will look forward to reading it while I am on my trip to Cape May, New Jersey for the avian fall migration in September. I expect to see lots of waterfowl at that time.

  3. rickflick
    Posted August 28, 2019 at 5:05 pm | Permalink


  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 28, 2019 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Robert Gillmor should have been dubbed Robin Gullmoorhen or similar if this world were just. He’s still alive & kicking & I recommend his colourful linotypes. He’s contributed illustrations to more than 100 books, but linotypes is where he truly shines.

    Have a look HERE

  5. Posted August 28, 2019 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Interesting ambiguity in the title. I didn’t know waterfowl could draw like that, let alone contemplate their own evolution. 😉

  6. KD33
    Posted August 29, 2019 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    So glad you posted this. I found a good hardcover edition. This is a perfect addition to my effort to collect books related to “foundational” questions.

  7. Posted August 29, 2019 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    My supervisor gave me this book during my PhD. I was (and still am) studying the ecological and evolutionary consequences of hybridization between different goose species. I finished this book in one day. Wonderful writing and clear explanations. I can highly recommend it!

    And for those interested in my goose research: https://avianhybrids.wordpress.com/2017/08/28/hybrid-geese-a-trilogy-of-papers/

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 29, 2019 at 5:12 am | Permalink

      Thanks Jente for the interesting link. Tack för gässen 🙂

  8. BJ
    Posted August 29, 2019 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    It’s like someone went back in time and made this just for Jerry.

  9. Posted August 30, 2019 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Jugraphia Slate.

  10. Posted August 30, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Looks like something that could merit a Dover reprint.

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