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Ghosts of Gondwana: The History of Life in New Zealand [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

G. Gibbs
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 42.95
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Book Description

30 Jan 2010
Have you ever wondered why New Zealand's plants and animals are so different from those in other countries? Why the kakapo is the only parrot in the world that cannot fly, or why the kiwi lives here and nowhere else? New Zealand is an extraordinary place, unique on Earth, and the remarkable story of how and why life evolved here is the subject of Ghosts of Gondwana. The science that traces the history of life on Earth is called historical biogeography and it is the theme of this book. Biogeography is a wide-ranging study, involving geology, genetics and biology. There are no departments of it and no professors, but to understand 'what lives where and why' it is necessary to probe the cutting edge of fields as disparate as continental drift and the inner secrets of the magic DNA molecule. Although we are blessed in New Zealand with many descriptive books about our birds, plants, landscapes and conservation issues, there is currently no up-to-date book that explains the origin of our life. George Gibbs' very accessible story summarises exciting new research which leads to an understanding of where our fauna and flora came from and how they evolved to become some of the strangest in the world. It also reveals the landmark events in our deep history which have moulded the life of today and presents a balanced view of the arguments which accompany this type of speculative science. Ghosts of Gondwana is a highly readable and engaging book. Heavily illustrated with photographs and diagrams, this is popular science writing at its best. As the only contemporary book on this subject, it will undoubtedly become essential reading for anyone interested in New Zealand's natural history.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Craig Potton Publishing; illustrated edition edition (30 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1877333484
  • ISBN-13: 978-1877333484
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 19.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 833,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Gem of A Book 22 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Intelligent, lucid, well organised and thoroughly informative, this is a delightfully well produced book.

Alongside a clearly written text with useful photos, there are several supremely useful maps and diagrams which show how it should be done if you want to tell a complicated but fascinating story. I loved the maps involving the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, with the remaining 'big four' southern continents making up "Australis" with Antarctica at its heart. No icy wastes then, just huge stretches of forest, all entirely unsullied by daft apes with ideas way above their station. What a groovy place it must have been.

Equally revealing is NZ's startlingly chequered geological history, it's current shape a mere novelty. There's been a lot of chopping and changing over the past 60 odd million years... And the biological inventory is similarly intricate; Gibbs supplies a lot of careful detail. Also winningly admirable, is the candour with which the author admits to the gaps in our knowledge, the outstanding mysteries and the areas ripe for future research. This is the kind of book you'll want to have on your bookshelf to refer back to, and cross reference with new discoveries and hypotheses.

As George Gibbs so properly puts it: 'understanding is always a journey, not a destination'.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern story of ancient evolution and migration 20 April 2009
By C. W. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
New Zealand geologists, biologists and geographers have had a tangle of evidence to decipher, on a shifting landscape that mixes old Gondwanaland with modern volcanoes and fast-moving faultlines. New Zealand's present islands are revealed as the tip of a sunken continental mass of Zealandia, and its plants and animals reveal how close it has come to sinking altogether, how it inherited plants and animals from the super-continent of Gondwanaland via Antarctica and Australia, and how its current biology reveals the traces of ancient random migrants of a few. The new biological clues of taxonomic DNA relationships and the new biogeography are revealed in this fascinating book, beautiful to hold and look at, great to read. Highly recommended as a companion to the more recently published book by Hamish Campbell and Gerard Hutching, In Search of Ancient New Zealand, the geological side of the same story.
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