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In 1982, respected ecologists Dan Janzen and Paul Martin published a short, provocative paper in the journal Science, asserting that many fruits found in Central American forests "are adapted primarily for animals that have been extinct for thirteen thousand years." As those species went the way of the dodo, the fruits lost their initial means of dispersal, but continued to eke out a system of procreation, Janzen and Martin explained. Their insight led to the methodological realization that to fully understand the evolutionary forces shaping these fruits, scientists must first determine the behavior of the extinct animals. Science writer Barlow (From Gaia to Selfish Genes) extends this compelling idea into a narrative stretching from the Pleistocene era up through the inception, rejection and gradual, partial acceptance of this theory by the ecological science community. The large, pendulous seedpods of a honey locust, Barlow shows, evoke the ghosts of mammoths that used to disperse the seeds. Although there are some beautiful passages, too often the writing is precious and repetitive. Barlow details her own rather simplistic observations of certain plants e.g., persimmon, osage orange and ginkgo whose anachronistic existence is similar to the Central American fruits, but she does not contribute significantly to the underlying theory. Janzen and Martin explained their ideas in nine pages. Barlow, with 20 years of hindsight and 25 times as many pages, embellishes the story convincingly but doesn't add much new information. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Here's an interesting proposal: we can tell a lot about the kinds of animals that existed thousands of years ago by looking closely at the kinds of fruit that grow today. A quarter century ago, this idea was so radical that its originators, ecologist Dan Janzen and paleontologist Paul Martin, had trouble even getting someone to publish their paper on the subject. This fascinating book chronicles the development of Janzen and Martin's theory and extends it by looking at new discoveries that help the experts learn how the world's ecosystems have evolved. Everywhere we look, Barlow says, we can find the ghosts of animals that evolved to eat certain fruits; the animals died off, but the fruits still grow, the only remaining part of a once-thriving ecosystem. Like the works of Stephen Jay Gould and Lewis Thomas, this account is imminently accessible for lay readers but also contains enough detail to satisfy those with some knowledge of the subject. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is a great read and will make you look at some of our native tress in a whole new light. Fascinating and very readable.Published 1 month ago by Karen Kluttz
This was superb. Makes you look at your surroundings in a whole new way. The ghosts of megafauna are all around us in the plants they left behind.Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
Easy to read and very informative. The footnotes and references have enabled me to incorporate some of the ideas about anachronistic fruits and plants into my teaching. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Chuck
The central idea of this book is stated in the first paragraph, nearly. It is a great idea, then, there's not much to do but fill in detail. I'm determined to wade on. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Roger Q. Callaway
Many of the the ideas are very interesting, though the book was clearly not written in what would be considered a scholarly manner. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Michael Brown
This book is about the phenomenon in symbiology where one partner is permanently lost and the other one must carry on without it. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Tim Tyler
Somewhat discursive, but wonderful material for a tree walk. There is food for megafauna laying all over the ground. I always wondered who ate the paw-paw or the Osage orange.Published on January 21, 2013 by Mark S. Cary
This is a very good introduction to the subject of anachronistic fruits and the extinct animals they may have been designed for. Read morePublished on March 29, 2011 by Dr. Praetorius