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The Song Of The Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions Paperback – 3 Jul 1997

4.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (3 July 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712673334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712673334
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 4.6 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 876,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Not only is this book compulsively readable - a masterpiece - it is maybe the masterpiece of science journalism" (Bill Mckibben Audobon Magazine)

"A moving book... Quammen is a good writer who has taken the time to master an important subject and do it justice" (Richard Dawkins The Times)

"Not since Gerald Durrell's books 30 years ago have I encountered such writing about the natural world. The witty, pithy, modest prose and the clever interweaving of science and storytelling are of a quality unrivalled in th field" (Matt Ridley Sunday Telegraph)

"Impressive and deeply moving...blends first-rate science journalism with superb travel and nature writing" (Financial Times)

"David Quammen is a brilliant young star of nature writing... His book is an important example of the genre, written in an enchanting style. His knowledge, based on years of research and adventure around the world, is truly impressive" (Edward O. Wilson, author of 'The Diversity of Life')

Book Description

This is a stunning book with graceful reverberations' Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
David Quammen can't tell us about the song of the dodo because it's a too late. The bird is extinct - they were all exterminated by 1690. Dodos were an island species - a big, flightless sort of pigeon. Sailors despised their apparent 'stupidity'. This stupidity or 'tameness', as we might also mistakenly think of it, is now recognised by modern naturalists as the naivety of animals that live on islands, which results from having no previous experience of predators. They didn't know they should avoid people or run away when approached, so it didn't take long to kill enough of them to ensure their extinction. Introduced species helped to bang the last few nails into the dodos' coffin lid. David Quammen could hardly have chosen a more symbolic creature than the dodo, for the title of his book on "island biogeography in an age of extinctions".

The author has a nice, laid-back writing style and has arranged some uncomfortable facts into an easy read. Here's an example. The voracious appetites of growing populations and industry put our natural environment under enormous pressure and cause habitats to be destroyed or divided into smaller and smaller pieces. So he asks us to imagine a fine Persian carpet - then to imagine it being chopped into pieces. What would happen? The edges would unravel and the bits that were left wouldn't be nearly so useful or so beautiful as the whole carpet had been. That's what happens to ecosystems when they're chopped into small pieces, like 'islands'. They unravel and decay. Island biogeography used to be just about proper islands - the sort that are surrounded by water - but it's now applicable to the islands scattered within continents.
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Format: Paperback
Spring 1997. An active volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat forced thousands to flee the island. Britain is gripped by the worst drought in two centuries. The koala population in Australia is exploding. Brooklyn's trees are being eaten by the Asian long-horned beetle. If you see no relationship among these events, read David Quammen's superb book, "The Song of the Dodo," and learn about island biogeography, "the study of the facts and patterns of species distribution."

When most people look at animals they only see the animals--tigers, tortoises, hornbills, rhinos and so on. They never ask why an animal is the way it is or how it got that way; where it came from and what it is like. Few wonder why animals are where they are and why they're not where they're not. Quammen does, so he takes readers on an intriguing and fascinating tour of island biogeography that relates the history of famous early biologists from Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace and Joseph Hooker to biogeographers of today like Michael Soulé and Edward O. Wilson.

Quammen's bibliography is 23 pages of references in very tiny type. Fortunately, despite years spent researching Dodo, Quammen wasn't content to spend all his time reading dry academic papers and obscure texts. Instead he broke out his hiking boots and retraced the steps of some of these explorers. He describes his personal experiences colorfully with analogies, anecdotes and descriptions. If you've been to some of the places he describes, you feel like you ought to go back to see through opened eyes. If you haven't been there, you feel like you ought to go--with Quammen's book in your backpack. Here's his description of Komodo dragons being fed a goat carcass by rangers on Komodo Island in Indonesia.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book whilst on holiday in western France in 1992. It completely blew me away. Up until that point I never imagined that a book dealing with very complex scientific ideas could be so entertaining. The story is beautiful but heartbreaking, according to Quammen natural habitats have been so fractured and reduced on the mainlands of the world that new species of large land mammals will never again emerge. The story of evolution on island habitats is fascinating and large chunks of travel writing nicley break up the scientific discourse. All in all a remarkable book.
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Format: Paperback
This is a near-perfect book for the layman in biogeography (like myself). It is a great mix of theory, history, interviews, accounts of the author's re-tracing of the steps of past and present biogeographers, and the author's tours of wildlife habitats and reserves. The author presents a fair treatment of the "never-to-be-resolved" issue of the true discoverer(s) of "the survival of the fittest/natural selection". I was only let down by the fact that I had finished reading the book (I just wish there was more to read) - but, there is more; a great glossary, a comprehensive bibliography, and a good index. I only wish that the fauna (98%) and flora (2%) presentations could have been more balanced, since I am a plant person. However, the subject matter is fascinating. This was a great read. I learned much of Wallace, Darwin, MacArthur, Edward Wilson, and the modern biogeographical thinkers. I enjoyed the descriptions of the explorations and tours of wildlife habitats. I highly recommend this book, both for adventure and for knowledge.
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