Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mount Kinabalu: In the Footsteps of Wallace

We’ll start off with a decayed wooden pole. The photo next to this text was taken by my friend Mustafa Abdul Rahman (Bob, for friends), an evolutionary biologist at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo.

It looks like any old piece of wood, but if you knew that this is the last remnant of the bungalow of the King of Sarawak where the 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace stayed in 1855, a biologist’s heart will skip a beat.

For Wallace is, with Darwin, the founder of evolutionary biology. And one of the first foundations he laid was a short paper entitled “On the law which has regulated the introduction of new species” (the paper later became known as “The Sarawak Law”).

He wrote that article in Borneo (though in one of the King’s other bungalows) and it was published in the journal The Annals and Magazine of Natural History.

In that paper, Wallace describes how species that resemble one another usually tend to occur in one another’s vicinity. And, he suggested, this implies that one species arises from another—in other words, evolution.

Only a few years later Wallace (independently from Darwin) discovered the process of natural selection, but there, in that royal bungalow he had already formed in his mind an image of nature in which some sort of evolutionary process—rather than divine creation–was the cause for new species.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Mount Kinabalu: In the Footsteps of Wallace