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SONG OF THE DODO: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions Hardcover – April 12, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0684800837 ISBN-10: 0684800837

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (April 12, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684800837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684800837
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

In a wonderful weave of science, metaphor, and prose, David Quammen, author of The Flight of the Iguana, applies the lessons of island biogeography - the study of the distribution of species on islands and islandlike patches of landscape - to modern ecosystem decay, offering us insight into the origin and extinction of species, our relationship to nature, and the future of our world.

From Publishers Weekly

Quammen (Natural Acts) has successfully mixed genres in this highly impressive and thoroughly enjoyable work. The scientific journalism is first-rate, with the extremely technical field of island biogeography made fully accessible. We learn how the discipline developed and how it has changed conservation biology. And we learn just how critical this field is in the face of massive habitat destruction. The book is also a splendid example of natural history writing, for which Quammen traveled extensively. The Channel Islands off California and the Madagascan lemurs are captivatingly portrayed. Equally impressive are the character studies of the scientists who have been at the forefront of island biogeography. From his extended historical analysis of the journeys and insights of 19th-century biologist Alfred Russell Wallace to his field and laboratory interviews with many of the men and women who have followed in Wallace's intellectual wake, Quammen delightfully adds the human dimension to his discussion of science and natural history. Using a canvas as large as the world, he masterfully melds anecdotes about swimming elephants, collecting fresh feces from arboreal primates in Brazil and searching for the greater bird of paradise on the tiny island of Aru into an irreverent masterpiece. That a book on so technical a subject could be so enlightening, humorous and engaging is an extraordinary achievement. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Mr Quammen's work is the finest written on the facts of island biogeography.
This is the first book I've read by Quammen, an imminently talented journalist who perfectly balances the information and writing style of the book.
Reid W. Wyatt
This is that rare book that was all that I have said above, but one that also literally changed my mind.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Douglas A. Greenberg VINE VOICE on April 26, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
*The Song of the Dodo* is a very long book on what some of us believe to be a vitally important subject, the ongoing loss of worldwide bioversity. Anyone interested in the fate of the world's wild creatures and yes, the fate of the world itself should read it and will likely enjoy it.
David Quammen does an exemplary job of leading his readers through almost two centuries of significant ideas and debates related to "island biogeography," a subject which is a lot more interesting and certainly a lot more significant than it might sound. Begining with the fascinating story of the Darwin vs. Wallace story vis-a-vis "who really came up with the theory of evolution first?" Quammen goes on to explain and illustrate just why the biogeography of islands is so important to any consideration of biodiversity and wildlife conservation for the world as a whole.
In weaving this historical narrative, Quammen doesn't just encapsulate theories (though he does this in some detail), he takes his reader into the field where the sometimes abstract principles behind diversity/rarity/extinction are actually demonstrated through the predicaments faced by various creatures. Quammen ventures to the Aru Islands, the Galapagos, Madagascar, Guam, Tasmania, Mauritius, Barro Colorado Island in Panama, the Amazonian rain forest, and on and on. It's a veritable world tour of places where rare and endangered animals struggle for existence in a world where human encroachment is causing an alarming acceleration in the rate of species extinction.
Through his mostly fascinating discussion of places, species, and biologeographical theories and the people behind those theories, Quammen shows an unusual ability to restate abstruse ideas in clear and understandable terms.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on January 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Over a couple of cold ones at the local pub, the good doctor and i burst out simultaneously: "I found this incredible book! You've got to read it!" It was, of course, Quammen. That's the kind of reaction this writer generates. His prose seizes your attention as he gently leads you into deserts, mountainous jungles, riverside woodlands and isolated islands in the Pacific. His quiet courage forces you to remind yourself that he's not gleaning his information from the vast list of sources in the back of this book, but from the researchers in the field. And he's right there with them as he relates their stories to him for you. Quammen writes books you want to carry around, waving at people, urging them to enjoy the superior writing and the critical message. It's all about our survival.
Quammen's resurrection of Alfred Russell Wallace was long overdue. Others have tried to bring this figure back into common knowledge, but the revival was either to accuse Darwin of plagiarism or taint Wallace's accomplishments with the flaws of penury and spiritualism. Quammen handles him as a total human being who achieved through inspiration in a delirium, what Darwin took two decades to accomplish. Quammen doesn't need to balance the two, he's more concerned with explaining the concepts in ways we can understand.
It's Quammen's ability to make you feel you are accompanying him on his quest to see how Nature that places him far above other science writers. He understands the issues, recognizes the value of the research being done and presents the methods and events alike with unblemished clarity. As a writer concerned with the impact of humanity on the world's environment, Quammen exhibits a unique talent.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1997
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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More About the Author

David Quammen is the author of a dozen fiction and nonfiction books, including Blood Line and The Song of the Dodo. Spillover, his most recent book, was shortlisted for several major awards. A three-time National Magazine Award winner, he is a contributing writer for National Geographic and has written also for Harper's, Outside, Esquire, The Atlantic, Powder, and Rolling Stone. He travels widely on assignment, usually to jungles, mountains, remote islands, and swamps.