Thursday, November 8, 2018
1) MacPhee, Ross D. E. and Peter Schouten. End of the Megafauna: The Fate of the World's Hugest, Fiercest, and Strangest Animals. 2018. W.W. Norton. Hardbound: 236 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller―including gorilla-sized lemurs, 500-pound birds, and crocodiles that weighed a ton or more―roamed the earth. These great beasts, or “megafauna,” lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone.
What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths? No one event can be pinpointed as a specific cause, but several factors may have played a role. Paleomammalogist Ross D. E. MacPhee explores them all, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to account for critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses.
Along the way, we learn how time is determined in earth history; how DNA is used to explain the genomics and phylogenetic history of megafauna―and how synthetic biology and genetic engineering may be able to reintroduce these giants of the past. Until then, gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten re-create these megabeasts here in vivid detail.
RECOMMENDATION: The artwork by Peter Schouten highlights this book!
2) Unwin, Mike and David Tipling. The Empire of the Eagle: An Illustrated Natural History. 2018. Yale University Press. Hardbound: 288 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A lavishly illustrated celebration of each of the world’s sixty-eight currently recognized eagle species in all their magnificence and beguiling diversity.
Eagles hold a unique allure among birds for their combination of power, grace, and predatory prowess. Captivating the human imagination, these raptors have symbolized pride, freedom, and independence of spirit since humankind’s earliest times. This book, unlike any previous volume, encompasses each of the world’s sixty-eight currently recognized eagle species, from the huge Steller’s Sea Eagle that soars above Japan’s winter ice floes to the diminutive Little Eagle that hunts over the Australian outback. Mike Unwin’s vivid and authoritative descriptions combined with stunning photographs taken or curated by David Tipling deliver a fascinating and awe-inspiring volume.
Featuring chapters organized by habitat, the book investigates the lifestyle and unique adaptations of each eagle species, as well as the significance of eagles in world cultures and the threats they face from humans. A gorgeous appreciation of eagles, this book will dazzle both eye and imagination.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to these species.