Tijs Goldschmidt, a Dutch biologist, has been working for several years along the shores of East Africa's Lake Victoria, a freshwater sea the size of Switzerland. There he has chronicled the changing fortunes of the genus Haplochromis
, made up of perchlike fish that differentiate into new species faster than any other vertebrates. Their numbers, however, fell precipitously after the Dutch government funded a fishery industry that harvested 60 tons of these cichlids daily; this industry also introduced nonnative species of fish that threatened to destroy the indigenous fauna. Goldschmidt writes of the mechanics of extinction--a process he says many biologists are loath to describe, for there "is always the hope that somewhere, hidden away, unnoticed, several individuals are still thriving." Students of population biology in particular will find this book of urgent value. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
There is a whimsical quality to this engaging first-person narrative of a Dutch biologist in a Tanzanian fishing village. There is also a lot of science. Goldschmidt joined an environmental impact study at Lake Victoria in the 1980s and encountered the furu, a fish whose radiation into hundreds of species far exceeds Darwin's better-known Galapagos Island finches. After introducing a "species flock" that includes creatures with such monikers as mud-biters, scale-scrapers, and snail-crushers, Goldschmidt guides the reader through a jungle of evolutionary theory that gets a bit eye-glazing at times. Fortunately, he is equally devoted to his comic misadventures among bureaucrats, missionaries, fisherfolk and fellow mzungu, or European "wanderers." Meanwhile, the prolific Nile perch, introduced in 1985 and hailed as the savior of the Tanzanian economy, appears to be bringing the furu's evolution to an abrupt end. In an early scene that might stand for both the wanderer's predicament and that of the furu, Goldschmidt questions an old man to determine if an expected Dutch boat could get stuck in a narrow Tanzanian tunnel: "'If I understand you correctly, everything can and cannot pass through the tunnel?' 'Eh,' said the old man, grinning broadly... 'You couldn't have put it better. Wewe mwenjiji, you are one of us. Welcome.'"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.