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Alfred Russel Wallace deserves equal billing with Charles Darwin for his independently drawn but parallel conclusions on the theory of evolution. Darwin himself called Wallace ‘generous and noble’ and referred favourably to his work in later editions of “The Origin of Species”. “The Malay Archipelago” is an extraordinarily accessible book. There is a wealth of detail about pre-modern life in the Indonesian archipelago which Wallace accumulated on over 60 separate journeys spanning some 14,000 miles. His basic thesis stands to this day: that two separate biological zones border these islands, separated by the deep-water channel now known as the Wallace Line, running between Bali and Lombok, which only a relative handful of species have crossed. The islands east of Bali in effect form a transitional zone where some of the world’s strangest creatures are found.
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