The Readable Darwin

Welcome to the Companion Website for
The Readable Darwin: The Origin of Species As Edited for Modern Readers


This website is a companion to the textbook The Readable Darwin by Jan A. Pechenik, published by Sinauer Associates.

Below are all of the links and videos referenced in each chapter of the book. Click a link to open it in a new window.



Link 1 With the following link, you can see all of the changes that Darwin made for each of the six editions of The Origin of Species.

Link 2: For more information about the historic Wallace–Darwin joint presentation concerning the origin of species by means of natural selection, on July 1, 1858, see the following link:;_and_on_the_Perpetuation_of_Varieties_and_Species_by_Natural_Means_of_Selection


Chapter 1: Variation Under Domestication


1.1 Tumbler pigeon tumbling in flight


1.1 A very nice summary of Lamarck’s ideas about the causes of evolutionary change

1.2 A list of all of the American Kennel Club recognized dog breeds, including photos

1.3 The orange pippin website lists many of the 7,500 apple varieties presently in existence around the world


Chapter 2: Variation in Nature


2.1 Interesting information about primroses and other plants with dimorphic or trimorphic flowers, and why Darwin was so interested in them

2.2 A brief summary of the difficulties in defining species


Chapter 3: The Struggle for Existence


3.1 Time-lapse video of a dandelion forming seeds, and the seeds blowing away in the wind

3.2 Dandelion seeds being blown away by the wind


3.1 Read about the five mass extinctions that have occurred on Earth in ancient times

3.2 Read an interview with Elizabeth Kolbert, who has published a book (2014) called The Sixth Extinction (Henry Holt and Co., publishers), about some of things that have been happening recently to natural populations of many organisms around the world

3.3 You can listen to another interview with Elizabeth Kolbert, courtesy of NPR


Chapter 4: Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest


4.1 Bird-of-Paradise Project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

4.2 Bumblebee gathering nectar from flowers

4.3 Platypus on land and in water

4.4 Lungfish breathing outside water and hibernating for years

4.5 A day in the life (and death) of a lungfish

4.6 Natural selection and adaptation in pocket mice


4.1 The evolution of four-footed terrestrial animals from aquatic ancestors

4.2 More information (with photographs) about the spurs on rooster legs

4.3 Darwin and Wallace papers presented at the Linnean Society


Chapter 5: Laws of Variation


5.1 Differences in appearance and behavior in male and female pheasants


5.1 Sexual dimorphism in a number of animals, including birds

5.2 Stripes appearing on donkeys, mules, and horses

5.3 600 horse breeds, including those mentioned by Darwin


Chapter 6: Difficulties with the Theory


6.1 Flying fish

6.2 Flying lemurs in Borneo

6.3 Flying lemurs in the Philippines

6.4 American mink

6.5 Electric knife fish

6.6 Torpedo ray fish

6.7 Bucket orchid pollination

6.8 Catasetum fimbriatum pollination mechanism

6.9 An orchid explosion

6.10 Frigate birds

6.11 Puff adder attacks mouse


Chapter 7: Miscellaneous Objections to the Theory of Natural Selection


7.1 An echinoderm pedicellaria in action

7.2 Flounder metamorphosis

7.3 Twining motion of vines

7.4 Avicularium


7.1 Basic information about bryozoans and their avicularia. Click the link about half-way down the page to see a video of avicularia in action.

7.2 Interesting information about the pedicellariae of sea urchins and sea stars, including videos of these structures in action.


Chapter 8: Instinct


8.1 A cuckoo hijacks a warbler’s nest

8.2 A cuckoo ejects other eggs from nest

8.3 Bees building hexagonal cells, including the mathematics behind it

8.4 African red (Dorylus) ant bite

8.5 Driver ants (Dorylus wilverthi)


8.1 The role of physical forces in helping bees to build the honeycomb’s hexagonal cells

8.2 Here is a detailed description of how Darwin came to understand the process by which bees build their honeycombs, based upon his correspondence with many other researchers

8.3 Answering a 2,000-year-old question about bees in an amusing way: Why hexagons?

8.4 Fascinating recent evidence that some behavioral learning may be passed along to offspring, through the modified expression of existing genes (based on Dias and Ressler. 2014. Nature Neuroscience 17: 89–96).