Zoology Achievement Chronology, 1960-75

. . . NATURAL HISTORY, including ethology, comparative anatomy, agronomy, botany, entomology, veterinary medicine, and primatology


  • Max Perutz publishes the structure of hemoglobin, the oxygen/iron transport protein in the red blood cells of vertebrates (see Chemistry Timeline).
  • John Kendrew publishes the molecular structure of myoglobin, the iron and oxygen binding protein found in muscles of vertebrates (see Chemistry Timeline)
  • Robert Burns Woodward (1917-1979) synthesizes at Harvard the structure of chlorophyll, essential to plant and algae photosynthesis; follows his earlier synthesis of the cholesterol, cortisone, lysergic acid (LSD), strychnine, and reserpine molecules.
  • Kenneth Norris & John Prescott establish that bottlenose dolphins use echolocation (sonar!) to find objects in water similarly to the way bats find objects in the air.
  • Jane Goodall sets up Gombe Stream Research Center on Lake Tanganyika in eastern Tanzania; makes two startling observations about chimpanzees: they eat meat, not just vegetables; male chimps hunt and kill monkeys, and share the meat. 
  • Juan Oró synthesizes adenine, one of DNA’s four nitrogenous bases and a key component of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an energy-carrier in cell respiration.


  • Rat strain born in Brattleboro, Vermont unable to produce the hormone vasopressin necessary to healthy kidney function due to genetic mutation. Distributed around the world, the “Brattleboro Rat” becomes the prototype for what is known as “the knockout rat” idea – a genetically engineered rat with one gene turned off for academic and pharmaceutical research.
  • J. Heinrich Mattaei performs the Poly-U-Experiment in the United States, opening the way to solution of the genetic code, a key event in modern genetics.
  • James Bonner discovers that chromosomes synthesize RNA.


  • Emile Zuckerkandl & Linus Pauling introduces the idea of what will become known as the “molecular clock,” involving the mutation rate of biomolecules.
  • The first “nude mouse” strain discovered by Norman Grist at Brownlee virology lab in Glasgow, Scotland.  
  • John Gurdon produces copies of frogs from adult frog intestinal cells, though tadpoles die before maturity.
  • English zoologist V.C. Wynne-Edwards (1906-1997) hypothesized that evolution is a struggle among groups, not individuals as Darwin asserted; and groups survive if they regulate their populations by the altruistic acts of individuals.
  • Harvard biologist (myrmecologist) Edward O. Wilson publishes a study, using fire ants as subjects, laying the groundwork for the notion of trail pheromones; would publish his seminal The Insect Societies in 1971; became the curator of insects at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. 


  • Geneticist J.B.S. Haldane uses the word “clone” in a speech entitled “Biological Possibilities for the Human Species in the Next Ten-Thousand Years.”
  • Chinese embryologist Tong Dizhou achieves the first successful clone of a fish, a golden carp.
  • Molecular biologist Emile Zuckerkandl and physical chemist Linus Pauling introduce the term paleogenetics. 
  • Ornithologist Niko Tinbergen poses his “four questions” to be asked for any animal behavior; considered one of the fathers of animal behavior which is called ethology.
  • Sydney Brenner proposes the use of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegansas as a model organism for the investigation primarily of neural development in animals.


  • British molecular biologist Robin Holliday proposes existence of the Holliday junction in a nucleic acid.
  • Solomon Snyder and Julius Axelrod prove serotonin was needed for maintaining the sleep cycles of rats; determine the function of the pineal gland in what scientists call a mammal’s “circadian rhythm.”


  • The Parma wallaby, thought for 70 years to be extinct, is rediscovered north of New Zealand’s North Island on Kawau Island.
  • W. Keble Martin publishes The Concise British Flora in Colour, including proper nomenclature and popular names.
  • The “brain-eating amoeba” Naegleria fowleriis detected for the first time.
  • Robert Good of the University of Minnesota reports his evidence on the role of tonsils in the development of the immune systems of mammals.
  • Edwin Way Teale publishes his landmark Wandering through Winter: A Naturalist’s Record of a 20,000-Mile Journey through the North American Winter.
  • UCLA paleobotanist J.W. Schopf (b. 1941) claims to find Precambrian (older than 600 million years) microfossils of eukaryotic algae in Australian stromatolite formations; similar finds in South Africa in 1966; in India and Russia in the 1970s.


  • The first live specimen of a mountain pygmy possum (Burramysparvus), Australia’s only truly hibernating marsupial – known previously only from fossil records – is discovered at a ski resort in Victoria, New South Wales near Mount Kosciuszko in the Snowy Mountains. 
  • German entomologist Willi Hennig’s Phylogenetic Systematics is published in English, advancing the study of cladistics. 
  • Jared M. Diamond’s study of Fore people of New Guinea finds nearly one-to one correspondence between Fore classification of lower vertebrates, incl. birds, and the Linnaean classifications used by Western zoologists.
  • Monte Lloyd and Henry S. Dybas publish an explanation in the journal Evolution (June) for the cycle of the periodical cicada, that emerges every 17 years in the eastern United States (13 in the southern), with the idea of the “predator saturation principle” (too many to catch!); followed up with an elaboration in Ecological Monographs in 1974.


  • Paul Martin proposes the “blitzkrieg hypothesis” that asserts that human hunters who traveled to North America about 9,000 BC killed so many megafauna (mammals and birds) that these species became extinct.  
  • Allen and Beatrix Gardner of the University of Nevada, Reno, begin to teach American Sign Language to a two-year-old chimpanzee named Washoe who eventually teaches another chimp, Loulis, a few signs; replicated results with four more chimps from 1972 to 1981.
  • Desmond Morris publishes The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal.
  • Robert H. MacArthur & E.O. Wilson publish The Theory of Island Biogeography.
  • Primatologist Dian Fossey begins her study of mountain gorillas in the Congo, then Rwanda.
  • Evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) argues that the eukaryotic cell came about first as a kind of colony of of prokaryotes; that our nucleus, mitochrondria, and chloroplasts had their origins first as prokaryotic cells.


  • Motoo Kumura introduces the neutral theory of molecular evolution.
  • American paleobotanist Elso Barghoorn finds amino acid remains in rock samples from Lake Superior near Port Arthur, Canada that date to nearly 3 billion years, pushing back scientists’ views of when life began on earth (see also Geology Timeline).


  • Studying the interaction of starfish and mussels, zoologist Robert T. Paine (1933-2016) introduces a popular idea in conservation biology – the “keystone species,” – a creature that has a disproportionately large impact on its environment relative to its abundance; for example, wolves, sea otters, jaguars, starfish, and beavers. Relatedly, Payne coins the phrase “trophic cascades,” an ecological concept that describes indirect interactions that can control whole ecosystems (see link: effects on forests with elimination of wolves).
  • Thomas D. Brock and Hudson Freeze of Indiana University publish findings on hyperthermophilic bacteria, most notably Thermus aquaticusa bacterium species living at a temperature of 60-80 °C in Yellowstone National Park hot spring. T. aquaticusbecomes a standard source of enzymes able to withstand higher temperatures than those from E. Coli; significant for the history of polymerase chain reactions.
  • Marked decline in Common Whitethroats (warbler) due to Sahel drought draws attention to effects of climate on migratory species.
  • Jack Lester King & Thomas H. Jukes publish their article “Non-Darwinian Evolution” that confirms Kimura’s neutral theory of 1968 – the idea that the overwhelming number of mutations, at the molecular level, are neither harmful nor beneficial.  Also introduces the idea that so-called “genetic drift,” not natural selection is the driver of molecular change; starts neutralist-selectionist debate.
  • In the journal Science (January 10), Cornell ecologist Robert H. Whitaker proposes a five-kingdom system for the organization of life, with three levels of increasing complexity


  • Roger Searle Payne (b. 1935) discovers that humpback whales, often in groups, sing “songs” up to 30 minutes continuously, particularly males during mating season.


  • Francis G. Howarth discovers communities of specialized thermophile cave animals living in lava tubes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
  • Myriapodologist/entomologist C.A.W. Jeekel publishes Nomenclator Generum et Familiarum Diplopodorum.pioneering
  • John O’Keefe discovers place cells in the mammalian brain.
  • Birute Galdikas arrives in Indonesian Borneo to study orangutans; the third of a trio of women researchers sponsored by paleoanthropologist, Louis Leakey, including Jane Goodall in Tanzania (chimps) and Dian Fossey in Rwanda (gorillas); together called “The Trimates.”
  • Antlers and horns again confirmed in hoofed ruminant ungulates as structures for ritualized behavior, not as weapons for battle. Valerius Geist’s study (1971) of mountain sheep asserts antlers as “visual dominance-rank symbols” for status and access to females; reinforce earlier studies of Beninde & Darling in red deer, J.P. Kelsall in caribou (1968). 


  • Niles Eldridge & Stephen Jay Gould publish their landmark paper on punctuated equilibrium, questioning Darwin’s (and Charles Lyell’s) idea of gradualism.




  • Biochemists Cesar Milstein and Georges Köhler report their discovery of how to use hybridomacells to isolate monoclonal antibodies, effectively beginning the history of antibody use in science and medicine.
  • Living specimens of the Chacoan Peccary (Catagonus wagneri), previously known only from Pleistocene fossils, are identified in northern Paraguay.
  • The potent antiparasitical Ivermectin discovered; enters medical use in 1981 for humans and large animals; becomes one of the WHO’s “essential medicines,” therapeutic for COVID-19.
  • E.O. Wilson publishes Sociobiology: The New Synthesis which applies insect theories to vertebrates and, tellingly, to humans.


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