Monday, September 15, 2014
1) Fuller, Errol. The Passenger Pigeon. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 177 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: At the start of the nineteenth century, Passenger Pigeons were perhaps the most abundant birds on the planet, numbering literally in the billions. The flocks were so large and so dense that they blackened the skies, even blotting out the sun for days at a stretch. Yet by the end of the century, the most common bird in North America had vanished from the wild. In 1914, the last known representative of her species, Martha, died in a cage at the Cincinnati Zoo.
This stunningly illustrated book tells the astonishing story of North America's Passenger Pigeon, a bird species that--like the Tyrannosaur, the Mammoth, and the Dodo--has become one of the great icons of extinction. Errol Fuller describes how these fast, agile, and handsomely plumaged birds were immortalized by the ornithologist and painter John James Audubon, and captured the imagination of writers such as James Fenimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, and Mark Twain. He shows how widespread deforestation, the demand for cheap and plentiful pigeon meat, and the indiscriminate killing of Passenger Pigeons for sport led to their catastrophic decline. Fuller provides an evocative memorial to a bird species that was once so important to the ecology of North America, and reminds us of just how fragile the natural world can be.
Published in the centennial year of Martha's death, The Passenger Pigeon features rare archival images as well as haunting photos of live birds.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in this species.
2) Goodman, Steven M. and William L. Jungers. Extinct Madagascar: Picturing the Island's Past. 2014. University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 206 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The landscapes of Madagascar have long delighted zoologists, who have discovered, in and among the island’s baobab trees and thickets, a dizzying array of animals, including something approaching one hundred species of lemur. Madagascar’s mammal fauna, for example, is far more diverse, and more endemic, than early explorers and naturalists ever dreamed of. But in the past 2,500 or so years—a period associated with natural climatic shifts and ecological change, as well as partially coinciding with the arrival of the island’s first human settlers—a considerable proportion of Madagascar’s forests have disappeared; and in the wake of this loss, a number of species unique to Madagascar have vanished forever into extinction.
In Extinct Madagascar, noted scientists Steven M. Goodman and William L. Jungers explore the recent past of these land animal extinctions. Beginning with an introduction to the geologic and ecological history of Madagascar that provides context for the evolution, diversification, and, in some cases, rapid decline of the Malagasy fauna, Goodman and Jungers then seek to recapture these extinct mammals in their environs. Aided in their quest by artist Velizar Simeonovski’s beautiful and haunting digital paintings—images of both individual species and ecosystem assemblages reproduced here in full color—Goodman and Jungers reconstruct the lives of these lost animals and trace their relationships to those still living.
Published in conjunction with an exhibition of Simeonovski’s artwork set to open at the Field Museum, Chicago, in the fall of 2014, Goodman and Jungers’s awe-inspiring book will serve not only as a sobering reminder of the very real threat of extinction, but also as a stunning tribute to Madagascar’s biodiversity and a catalyst for further research and conservation.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in the paleontology of Madagascar.
My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here: http://www.scilogs.com/maniraptora/birdbooker-report-338/
Friday, September 12, 2014
1) Trotta, Roberto. The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is. 2014. Basic Books. Hardbound: 85 pages. Price: $16.99 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: From the big bang to black holes, from dark matter to dark energy, from the origins of the universe to its ultimate destiny, The Edge of the Sky tells the story of the most important discoveries and mysteries in modern cosmology—with a twist. The book's lexicon is limited to the thousand most common words in the English language, excluding physics, energy, galaxy, or even universe. Through the eyes of a fictional scientist (Student-People) hunting for dark matter with one of the biggest telescopes (Big-Seers) on Earth (Home-World), cosmologist Roberto Trotta explores the most important ideas about our universe (All-there-is) in language simple enough for anyone to understand.
A unique blend of literary experimentation and science popularization, this delightful book is a perfect gift for any aspiring astronomer. The Edge of the Sky tells the story of the universe on a human scale, and the result is out of this world.
RECOMMENDATION: It's basically cosmology made easy.
Monday, September 8, 2014
De Roy, Tui, Mark Jones & Julie Cornthwaite. Penguins: The Ultimate Guide. 2014. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 240 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Penguins are perhaps the most beloved birds. On land, their behavior appears so humorous and expressive that we can be excused for attributing to them moods and foibles similar to our own. Few realize how complex and mysterious their private lives truly are, as most of their existence takes place far from our prying eyes, hidden beneath the ocean waves. This stunningly illustrated book provides a unique look at these extraordinary creatures and the cutting-edge science that is helping us to better understand them. Featuring more than 400 breathtaking photos, this is the ultimate guide to all 18 species of penguins, including those with retiring personalities or nocturnal habits that tend to be overlooked and rarely photographed.
A book that no bird enthusiast or armchair naturalist should do without, Penguins includes discussions of penguin conservation, informative species profiles, fascinating penguin facts, and tips on where to see penguins in the wild.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to penguins.
My WEEKLY Birdbooker Report can be found here: http://www.scilogs.com/maniraptora/birdbooker-report-337/
Saturday, September 6, 2014
1) Pickrell, John. Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds. 2014. Columbia University Press. Hardbound: 215 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The discovery of stunning, feathered dinosaur fossils coming out of China since 2006 suggest that these creatures were much more bird-like than paleontologists previously imagined. Further evidence—bones, genetics, eggs, behavior, and more—has shown a seamless transition from fleet-footed carnivores to the ancestors of modern birds.
Mixing colorful portraits with news on the latest fossil findings and interviews with leading paleontologists in the United States, China, Europe, and Australia, John Pickrell explains and details dinosaurs’ development of flight. This special capacity introduced a whole new range of abilities for the animals and helped them survive a mass extinction, when thousands of other dinosaur species that once populated the Earth did not. Pickrell also turns his journalistic eye toward the stories behind the latest discoveries, investigating the role of the Chinese black market in trading fossils, the controversies among various dinosaur hunters, the interference of national governments intent on protecting scientific information, and the race to publish findings first that make this research such a dynamic area of science.
RECOMMENDATION: A readable introduction to the subject.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
1) McMullan, Miles and Lelis Navarrete. Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador: Including the Galápagos Islands. 2013. Fundación de Conservación Jocotoco. Paperback: 207 pages. Price: $29.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador is the first book to cover both Ecuador and the Galápagos islands, and includes 50 mainland species not included in previous guides for Ecuador.
Plates are arranged to show illustrations, maps, text, fieldnotes as well as information on endemism and threat status in a single information cell. Emphasis is placed on quick comparison of species in the field, with notes focusing on those features most useful in identification. The format is designed with outdoor use in mind. The maps show the distribution in Ecuador, while information on the Galápagos is given as a birdlist in an appendix at the end of the book.
Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador is designed to have a broad appeal among both serious birders and beginners and dabblers, and so increase awareness of the birds of this accessible country. A percentage of the proceeds from the sales of this book will go toward conservation efforts in Ecuador.
RECOMMENDATION: For birders that don't want to lug around the larger The Birds of Ecuador by Ridgely et al.. This title is available in the U.K. from NHBS here: http://www.nhbs.com/fieldbook_of_the_birds_of_ecuador_tefno_194879.html