reviewed for Science by Jordi

published a few years earlier (which showed
the evolution of beak size in one of Darwin’s
finches over 30 years), they told him about
an updated version that showed another shift
in the direction of change. Thompson felt he
Jordi Bascompte
was racing to produce a timely account of our
current understanding of adaptive evolution.
volution shapes life on Earth tirelessly. long argued for the crucial role the evolution Is there still anyone who thinks that evolution
This statement may sound somewhat of interactions among species plays in gen- always proceeds slowly?
trivial, but when supported by so many erating biodiversity [e.g., (1–3)]. As he notes
Similarly, we now understand that popurecent and diverse studies it becomes excit- in this book, researchers in the 20th century lations are not well mixed among their habiing and timely. This is clearly demonstrated stressed the evolution of spetats, but often occupy discrete
by John Thompson’s Relentless Evolution. cies, but those of the current
habitat patches in heterogeRelentless Evolution
His lucid and extensively referenced synthe- century will emphasize the
neous environments. Thompby John N. Thompson
sis also shows why understanding evolution evolution of interactions. We
son’s classic work on the
University of Chicago Press,
matters—especially today, a time of rapid know that many fast-evolving
geographic mosaic theory of
Chicago, 2013. 509 pp. $100,
environmental change.
parts of genomes are involved
coevolution provides a won£70. ISBN 9780226018614.
The book’s contents will strike many read- in the interactions with other
derful illustration. Examples
Paper, $35, £24.50. ISBN
ers as novel. That is because in the past few species. Recent years have
range from his own research
years we have largely changed our views seen a progression in changing
with Greya moths and woodabout the tempo and nature of adaptive evo- the focus of this overall claim
land star (Lithophragma spelution. For example, whereas a couple of from pairwise interactions, to small groups of cies) plants to the coevolution between red
decades ago almost everyone would claim species interacting in geographic mosaics, to crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) and conifers by
large networks of dependen- Craig Benkman and colleagues. Rather than
cies among free-living spe- an environment in which there is a single
cies. Thus, adaptive evolu- evolutionary process, we find in such cases
tion often leads to complex a collection of seemingly independent evonetworks of interacting spe- lutionary processes among heterogeneous
cies that in turn spur addi- environments. This is yet another reason why
tional selective pressures. evolution is so tireless and capable of proThis is one reason for the ducing so many diverse adaptive solutions.
never-ending character of
Thompson is an authoritative writer. As
one also finds with the late ecologist Ramon
Another key compo- Margalef, his books are linked one to another
nent in our appreciation by the personal evolution of a thinker focusthat adaptive evolution is so ing on a major subject, in this case the evolupervasive and fast relies on tionary and coevolutionary mechanisms that
the fact that the direction shape biodiversity. That is, his latest book
of evolution may change addresses much the same major questions as
markedly through time its predecessors, and yet it is timely and disand space. The wonder- tinctive because Thompson’s way of thinking,
Different moths, different shapes. Subspecies of Joshua trees ful work by Rosemary and as with the subject of his analysis, evolves and
(Yucca brevifolia) pollinated by Tegeticula synthetica moths (left) and Peter Grant with Darwin’s diversifies rapidly through time. The book
by T. antithetica (right).
finches (Geospiza) in the continues an unfolding story that becomes
Galápagos Islands offers a richer and more appealing as more evidence
that ecological and evolutionary time scales great account of the former. The alternation is compiled. Thompson’s discussions confirm
were uncoupled, we now know that evolu- of dry and wet years has been shown to be previous ideas but at the same time channel
tion can proceed very rapidly and therefore enough to reshape the selective forces on the them toward novel and richer directions. They
that ecology and evolution should be studied finches’ beak size. During a major drought, will also serve to remind young scientists that
jointly. Similarly, although the focus of much up to 85% of the medium ground finches on this is a great time to be conducting research
earlier evolutionary research emphasized the the island of Daphne Major died. The surviv- on evolution.
adaptation of species to their environments, ing individuals were much larger, with stronTimely, authoritative, and beautifully told,
we now understand the major importance of ger beaks able to crack open the strong seeds Relentless Evolution is a must read for anyadaptation to other free-living species in gen- of the then-dominant plant species. This trend one interested in understanding the processes
erating diversification.
was reversed during more humid periods, shaping life on Earth. As Thompson reminds
Thompson (an evolutionary ecologist at which had a greater diversity of plants, some readers in the concluding chapter, the big
the University of California, Santa Cruz) has of them with much weaker seeds. An anec- challenge we face is not simply the loss of
dotal but insightful indication of the speed species but the consequent loss of evolutionof adaptive evolution: Thompson notes that ary history and potential. “We still have much
The reviewer is at the Integrative Ecology Group, Estación
when he contacted the Grants for permission to learn about … how we can use our develBiológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), Calle Américo Vespucio
to use a modified version of a graph they had oping knowledge of the relentlessness of
s/n, E-41092 Sevilla, Spain. E-mail:
Adaptation, Fast and Endless
12 JULY 2013 VOL 341 SCIENCE
Published by AAAS
evolution to maintain the diverse web of life
and our place within that web.”
1. J. N. Thompson, Interaction and Coevolution (Wiley, New
York, 1982).
2. J. N. Thompson, The Coevolutionary Process (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 1994).
3. J. N. Thompson, The Geographic Mosaic of Coevolution
(Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 2005).
Origins of the Modern
Michael A. Goldman
s scientists, we have a turbulent relationship with science fiction, not to
mention the broader poetry and literature and those who practice in these dark
arts. This is especially so when writers warn
us of the arrogance and the hazards of our
own work. But from the mid-18th century
into the first decades of the 19th, England’s
high society, literary society, and scientific
innovators shared the parlor. In The Lady and
Her Monsters, Roseanne Montillo transports
the reader into that dark and stormy, intensely
curious, romantic, and macabre slice of history. Her sweeping biography of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley portrays a time that saw the
poetry of Keats and Byron; the dawn of a new,
experimental physiology and medicine; and
the horror of Frankenstein; or, The Modern
Prometheus (1).
The daughter of William Godwin and
Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley would be
surrounded by death, intrigue, and storm from
the start. The night of her birth, London experienced a storm “later remembered as one of
the most awesome displays of thunder and
lightning anyone had ever seen.” While natural philosophers were learning to master electricity, others saw their efforts as sacrilegious
and the angry thunderstorms a sign of God’s
wrath. The worst was still to come: Wollstonecraft, a writer and philosopher whose A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is often credited
as the first feminist tome, died 11 days later
from an infection acquired during childbirth.
Now there’s a memorable entry into the world.
After the family moved for a new start,
their home was near the city’s prisons and the
The reviewer is at the Department of Biology, San Francisco
State University, San Francisco, CA 94132–1722, USA.
The Creature. Theodor von Holst’s frontispiece to
Mary Shelley’s 1831 edition.
about the rich histories of the Frankenstein
castle and the family for which it was named.
Montillo presents Radu Florescu’s controversial claims (2) of a link between Mary’s
novel and the alchemist Johann Konrad Dippel (1673–1734). Dippel, born at Burg Frankenstein, became the stuff of local legends:
He was believed to have found the philosopher’s stone (able to prolong life and turn lead
into gold). But his use of the stone for his own
gain, and his lack of knowledge of chemistry,
resulted in his burning down the place. Parallels with the characters, events, and scenes in
the novel are palpable.
Montillo’s account is certainly not a
spoiler for the novel or the many plays and
movies that followed. She reminds us that
frequent hangings that brought Londoners the blockbuster 1931 film from Univerinto a frenzy. More positively, Godwin hosted sal Studios is a work of pure entertainment
gatherings of many thinkers of the day, such that “turned Mary Shelley’s moral tale into a
as Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
basic horror story,” ignoring
who read his The Rime of
its most important messages.
The Lady and Her Monsters
the Ancient Mariner at one.
Science fiction is valued
A Tale of Dissections,
Montillo (who teaches litnot
just for its entertainment
Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins,
erature at Emerson College)
or the cautionary mesand the Creation of Mary
notes, “A decade later Mary
sends, but because
Shelley’s Masterpiece
Godwin would use simithe popular literature—espeby Roseanne Montillo
lar imagery in the opening
cially when it erupts into
William Morrow (HarperCollins),
scenes of … Frankenstein. …
theaters and broader discusNew York, 2013. 332 pp. $26.99,
In it, the fictional character of
sion—provides an excuse
£17.30. ISBN 9780062025814.
Robert Walton, a mariner and
for scientists to teach, and
explorer intent on finding a
the general public to learn,
passage to the North Pole, appears and echoes about the work scientists do. Frankenstein is
Coleridge’s mariner as he too was traveling almost 200 years old, but its message today
into uncharted waters.”
(with few exceptions) remains the same.
Conversation in the Godwin home cer- Mary Shelley’s book is a must read. Montainly included the concept of animal elec- tillo’s biography, though not quite the “scitricity, which had been around since at least ence of Frankenstein” I had hoped, provides
the mid-1700s. The ideas of electricity’s role a rewarding addition of scientific and social
in physiology, its curative properties, and the context. With a time sequence that is hard to
potential for reanimation of dead tissue had, follow and two Marys whose lives are rife
by Mary Godwin’s youth, “become fashion- with romantic intrigue, tragedy, death, and
able in all of European society”—from the depression, The Lady and Her Monsters isn’t
natural philosophers to “more amateurish an easy read. The story of Mary Shelley’s
individuals” and also “among artists and writ- creation, life, and death mirrors the story
ers and at crowd-pleasing soirées and salons of Frankenstein and is almost as entertainall over England, France, and Germany.” ing and enlightening as the monster’s tale.
Poet Percy Shelley was among those who Addressing humanity’s coping with its newexperimented with this “vital force existing found powers, they are stories for every age.
in humans and nature” and later wrote “long
References and Notes
poems and odes that mused on the sublime
1. [M. Shelley], Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
mysteries of the natural world and the awe(Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, London,
some powers of lightning and thunder.”
2. R. Florescu, In Search of Frankenstein (New York Graphic
Later, Mary Shelley’s travels with Percy
Society, Boston, 1975). For a review of a later edition of
would lead them to the town of Niederthis work, see (3).
Beerbach, where they would see Burg Frankenstein. Percy and Mary collected local folk
tales, and it is possible that they heard much
10.1126/science.1240948 SCIENCE VOL 341 12 JULY 2013
Published by AAAS