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A Fragile Balance: The Extraordinary Story of Australian Marsupials [Hardcover]

Christopher Dickman , Rosemary Woodford Ganf
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 30, 2008 0226146308 978-0226146300

Marsupials are nearly synonymous with Australia. Although one of these enigmatic pouched mammals—the opossum—inhabits the United States and another 80 or so thrive in South America, some 220 species are confined to the Australasian region. In Australia, marsupials are the most diverse and dominant indigenous species, from the wallaby and the wombat to the kangaroo and koala.

The extraordinary story of these fascinating animals, A Fragile Balance provides the most up-to-date information on marsupials without losing sight of the unique set of circumstances that led them to prevalence Down Under. Covering all marsupial species in Australia, the book uses an evolutionary framework to interpret the marsupial’s biological traits. Each species account includes a basic biological description, a range map, and a measure of conservation status. The accounts are bounded by general chapters on biology, natural history, cultural history, and conservation. A Fragile Balance is the first book to emphasize interactions between and among marsupials, as well as between humans and marsupials.

Combining the expertise of renowned biologist Christopher Dickman with the artistic talents of illustrator Rosemary Woodford Ganf, A Fragile Balance will be a much celebrated reference for mammalogists worldwide, as well as for readers interested in Australian natural and cultural history.

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Editorial Reviews


"Many drawings and far more words have been devoted to Australian mammals; this book surpasses them all. The drawings, nay the art , of Ganf, is breathtaking. Every hair, every spot of mold on a leaf, every piece of bark, is drawn in exquisite detail. The text . . . is authoritative and engaging. . . . Don't miss the opportunity to bound to a bookstore, glide to the Internet, or jump on the opportunity to spend hours with this book."

"The author is one of the world's leading marsupiologists, and he draws deeply on his own three decades of research experience as he leads us through the evolution, systematics, ecology, ethology, natural history, and conservation of Australian marsupials. . . . A superb all-round introduction for any researcher who wants to know more about marsupials. . . . Ganf's breathtaking portraits of marsupials have a kind of transcendent quality that almost suggests an inherent vulnerability, in corroboration of the book's title."
(Marcel Cardillo Quarterly Review of Biology)

About the Author

Christopher Dickens is professor in the school of biological sciences at the University of Sydney.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (January 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226146308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226146300
  • Product Dimensions: 12.3 x 9.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,756,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure to behold and own January 1, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Magnificently produced volume on everything one could possibly wish to know about Australian marsupials. It is written by a very knowlegable and readable expert , Christopher Dickman, (definitely not a textbook) and wonderfully illustrated (perhaps amongst the finest mammalian artwork ever (Audubon would have been envious); illustrations borrowed from the three volume collector's set "Marsupials of Australia," which took over 15 years to complete by the incomparable Rosemary Woodford Ganf. Thus, this is a steal at $65 US. If you like beautiful, authoritative, informative books on natural history, then this is a must for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful balance ! March 31, 2008
I bought this book as soon as it came on the market.
Great it is.

Why you are asking ? Well first of all the drawings, they are great and must be one of the most beautiful seen and made today. Take a look at the cover of this book here on Amazon, and then think of a book full of these !

The text explains to you the developement of the marsupials, their status,distribution in Australia (remember this is about the Australian marsupials) and different marsupial families.
It highlights some of the most unusual marsupials.

If you have got any interest in Australian marsupials this book should be in your library.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Can be read at night! April 12, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
No joke, for a factual tome, this book is well enough written to manage a couple chapters at night after a long day at work. Even without the illustrations, which are superb, the material is presented in a logical and fascinating way by an academic scholar who has the rare gift of writing for the layman and being able to make the information digestible and interesting. If you have an interest in Australian marsupials, this would be an excellent starting point to learn more about these fascinating creatures.

The illustrations remind me of James Lansdowne's birds - they almost seem alive!
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