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Walter Bock

Columbia University
Biological Sciences
1106 Schermerhorn Ext, M.C. 5521
New York, N.Y. 10027


Walter Bock's Curriculum Vitae
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Organisms are the result of evolutionary history and continue to survive because of the way they interact as individuals with the demands placed on them by their external environment. My research lies in the general area of organismal and evolutionary biology, with special emphasis on functional and evolutionary morphology of the skeletomuscular system. In particular, most of my research deals with the feeding apparatus of birds. I have chosen this area because the feeding apparatus is essential to the survival of individual organisms, because great diversity exists in the feeding apparatus of birds, and because the subject is sufficiently complex to permit insights into the questions of integrated morphological systems without being overwhelmed by details. Theskeletomuscular system is analyzed using a series of mechanical approaches, including free-body analysis. Special care is taken to look at all levels of organization from the fiber level to that of the whole feeding apparatus, using both reductionistic and integrative approaches.

My evolutionary studies center on the questions of biological adaptation and major evolutionary change. Most of this work is theory development. It has been essential to include ideas from the philosophy of science, as, for example, types of explanations. Some of the work deals with particular evolutionary events such as the origin of flight in birds, including the origin of avian flight. These evolutionary studies also include systematics based on comparative morphological analyses. Most of these taxonomic studies are on higher categorical levels, namely families of birds. However, I am also involved in compiling a second edition of a list of avian species of the world that necessitates an understanding of species taxonomy and the many problems of geographical variations.

Representative Publications

Bock, W.J. (1994) Ernst Mayr, naturalist: His contributions to systematics and evolution. Biology and Philosophy, 9:267-327.

Bock, W.J. (1994) Nomenclatural history of avian family-group names and their synonyms. Bulletin American Museum of Natural History, 222:1-281.

Bock, W.J. (1991) Explanations in Konstruktionsmorphologie and evolutionary morphology. Pp. 9 - 29. In, N. Schmidt-Kitter & K. Vogel, ed. Constructional morphology and evolution. Springer Verlag, Heidelberg.

Szalay, F. and W.J. Bock, (1991) Evolutionary theory and systematics: Relationships between process and patterns. Zeitschrift zool. Syst. Evolut-forsch. 29:1-39. (w/ Fred Szalay).

Bock, W.J. (1986) Species concepts, speciation, and macroevolution. Pp. 31-57. In, K. Iwatsuki, P.H. Raven and W.J. Bock, eds., "Modern Aspects of Species." Univ. Tokyo Press, Tokyo, xvii + 240 pp.

Bock, W.J. (1979) The synthetic explanation of macroevolution ary change -- a reductionist approach. Bulletin Carnegie Museum, 13:20-69.

Courses Taught:

Course Number



Introduction to Animal Structure and Function


Philosophy and History of Evolutionary Biology


Introduction to Evolutionary Biology

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