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The Eighth Continent:: Life, Death, and Discovery in the Lost World of Madagascar Paperback – June 26, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; First Perennial Edition edition (June 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380794659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380794652
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,852,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Lying some 250 miles off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar is the world's fourth-largest island. It is quite unlike the neighboring continent, and, for that matter, quite unlike any other landmass on the planet. Its plant life is almost wholly endemic: eight out of 10 plants there grow naturally only on Madagascar, and it has an entire ecosystem, the spiny desert, that is found nowhere else on earth. Many of its animal species, too, seem to have emerged from some evolutionary track that runs parallel to the rest of the world's; here can be found lemurs that will fit into a human palm, dwarf hippos, giant chameleons, and other rarities.

These plants and animals constitute an extraordinary diversity, writes science journalist Peter Tyson in this engaging book, and the island's richness of life has long intrigued scientists, who have proposed several theories to explain it. Those scientists, some of whom Tyson profiles at work in the field, are racing against time to catalog island life before it disappears, for Madagascar's human population is rapidly growing, and with that growth, the island's forests and other habitats are falling. The urgency may abate, Tyson writes, with guarded optimism, now that the island's current president has proposed that all of Madagascar be considered as a United Nations World Heritage Site, which would help provide funds to prevent further loss of habitat and diversity. Though this proposal is controversial, Tyson makes a good case for why it should be taken up--and he shows just how high the stakes are.

Throughout his narrative, Tyson mixes scientific reportage with a nicely rendered travelogue that guides readers across the island while outlining key concepts of island biogeography and conservation biology. His book is a worthy companion to David Quammen's Song of the Dodo, and valuable reading for anyone concerned with the world environment. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Combining travelogue, political discourse, ethnographic analysis and ecological exploration, this unusual book surveys an unusual subject: Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island. Situated only 250 miles off the coast of Africa, Madagascar is biologically unique. Not only does it have a rich animal and plant life, it also houses a huge number of endemic species found nowhere else on earth. Impressed with "the island's singular people. The striking beauty of the landscape. And the wonder of the wildlife," TysonAonline producer of NOVA and a veteran science writerAset out, four years ago, to make sense of the island's natural history. He visited four different scientists thereAa herpetologist, a paleoecologist, an archeologist and a primatologist. In this impressive volume, he writes about what he learned on these visits, successfully conveying both the flavor of field research and the biological mysteries of the island nation. Tyson reflects on questions of science (where did all these rare species come from?) as well as on more practical matters (how can a country that's so financially poor save its rich environmental resources?). He also presents engaging historical information and offers an exuberant discussion of the Malagasy language. Because Tyson tends to focus on his personal experiences, and he emphasizes wildlife over human life, the Malagasy people themselves regrettably remain in the background. Otherwise admirable, the book suffers for this absence. Agent, Theresa Park.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Madagascar in my mind has always been one those wild exotic places.
Marceau Ratard
Tyson closes the book with a detailed and comprehensive look at the effort to save the last wild areas of Madagascar.
Tim F. Martin
I can't more heartily recommend this book if you have even a smidgeon of interest or curiosity in Madagascar!
Bill Love / Blue Chameleon Ventures

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By reader on June 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Tyson takes us along on an adventure-filled, wonderful trek through the rainforests of Madagascar. The discoveries of new animals are chronicled, breathlessly, as if you are a member of the team. This is one of those important books that will be on my "special" shelf for a long time to come.
The chapter "Search for the Pygmy Hippo" is bound to become a classic among cryptozoologists! This is a great book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book does what only the best narrative non-fiction can do, it takes us to places where we'll never go and fascinates us with tales of subjects that we never knew we cared about. Eighth Continent ranks alongside the best of John McPhee, and with other more recent work like Reflections in Bullough's Pond. You don't have to be interested in Madagascar to read this one for sheer pleasure.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on February 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a truly great book, very well written, well researched, and a joy to read. Tyson shows us a virtual continent that is largey unknown to the rest of the world, home to bizarre wildlife found nowhere else on earth and enigmas that still confound researchers. Tyson addresses many issues relating to Madagascar. Why are so many plants and animals unique to Madagascar? Why did they speciate so wildly? How did they get there to begin with? Describing in detail the extinct megafauna of Madagascar - giant lemurs, giant tortoises, pygmy hippos, and the mighty elephant bird - he addresses issues of how they lived, research relating to them, and how they became extinct - if all of them are indeed extinct, as some may still exist in unexplored corners of the giant island.
Tyson also addresses the history of the island, from its original settlement apparently around the time of Christ to the present day. The origin of the Malagasy people is still a mystery, and Tyson explores Indonesian, Africa, and Arabian (as well as later European) influxes and influences on the island, not only in terms of history and archeology but also religion, culture, society, psychology, and how the people of the island make a living. The Malagasy are a fascinating blend of Indonesian, African, and Arabian peoples, showing diverse traits from these cultures and providing a continual mystery to researchers.
Tyson closes the book with a detailed and comprehensive look at the effort to save the last wild areas of Madagascar. Showing how a new national park is working, he shows that much has been accomplished on the island, but much remains to be done, and the preservation effort is fraught with peril.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bill Love / Blue Chameleon Ventures on February 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I can't more heartily recommend this book if you have even a smidgeon of interest or curiosity in Madagascar! No nature writer has yet compiled so much information into such a readable format. The author tends to veer off his researcher accounts into side topics with regularity, all the while skillfully relating them and never failing to lead us back into his main subject. The way he weaves the history and culture of the Malagasy people into his narratives is clever and accurate. If you are considering a personal visit to what is truly the last 'Lost World' on our planet, absorbing the information in this superb work is the single best way that I can suggest to prepare for the experience!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Melanie D. Typaldos on June 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I hate to disagree with the majority of the reviews, but I only found this book "okay." It's worth reading but it's not to rave about. The best parts deal with the Malagsy people, culture and history. The descriptions of the animals, plants, and ecosystems are weak. There are few photos and those are not highly informative or high quality. I recommend sections of David Quamman's book, Song of the Dodo, which has a much stronger biological bent to it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm a huge Madagascar fan and finiding books on one of my favorite places is a rare treat for me - this book is no exception. It's written wonderfully and has useful factual information. Before travelling here, I would suggest that you find all the information you can and this book is one of about 3 that I could say are appropriate for this.
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