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The Amber Forest: A Reconstruction of a Vanished World. 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691028880
ISBN-10: 0691028885
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Long thought to be unique to the Baltic region, amber--fossilized tree sap, often bearing the remains of ancient plants and animals--is widely distributed throughout the world. Here entomologists George and Roberta Poinar take readers on a tour of one out-of-the-way amber bed, located in the rainforest of the Dominican Republic, that formed over a period between 45 and 15 million years ago. This particular amber, formed mostly from the pungent sap of the algarrobo tree, attracted many curious creatures, including stingless bees and scorpions, as well as bits and pieces of material that happened to be floating by: hairs from a long-extinct Antillean rhinoceros and a saber-toothed tiger, spider webs, and seeds from plants that now take on slightly different forms. The Poinars' findings show that the prehistoric Antilles region, formed from large-scale volcanic and tectonic events, has declined in biodiversity, and they help give a more complete picture of the ancient climate than has hitherto been available.

The Poinars catalog the Dominican remains in great detail, and general readers may find their descriptions to make for slow going. But readers with some knowledge of or interest in paleontology, as well as collectors of amber specimens, will likely be fascinated by the window into the distant past that the New World amber affords. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Millions of years ago, entire insects, small animals and plants were trapped within the resin produced by ancient tropical algaroba trees. As the millennia passed, the resin solidified, perfectly fossilizing all ensnared within it. This fossilized resin, also known as amber, provides a unique opportunity to examine extinct organisms. The husband-and-wife Poinars (The Quest for Life in Amber; he's an entomologist at Oregon State University; she's an electron microscopist) specialize in studying the extinct organisms trapped in amber. Using data gathered by surveying a large collection of amber-embedded fossils from the Dominican Republic, they have been able to reconstruct the tropical forest ecosystem that dominated the island of Hispaniola 15 million to 45 million years ago. The Poinars' research proves "the long-term stability of host-parasite, predatory-prey and symbiotic associations" and "demonstrates how important past climactic patterns are in determining the present distribution of plants and animals." Though their prose can be overly academic (with the exception of the imaginative prologue), their descriptions of the interactions among the ancient biota are captivating. The text is richly complemented by 190 photographs and drawings by the authors, many depicting insects frozen in time. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (July 19, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691028885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691028880
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #838,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on October 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Millions of years ago, a meat-eating animal snuck through the primeval forest in what is now the Dominican Republic. Taking a short break in the shade of the towering canopy, it sat on some bamboo shoots which broke off in its fur. As the animal continued on its search for its next meal, the shoots began to irritate it. Growling (as I imagine), it rubbed up against an algarrobo tree. Some of the irritating plant fell out, along with one or two of the animal's hairs. These things fell into some resin or sap which exuded from the tree. The sap preserved them perfectly. Later the large drop of sap fell to the ground, was covered by debris which turned to earth, burying the sap completely. It lay there for a million or more years, then the ocean rose, taking the object to the bottom, where it was polished or preserved for more millions of years. Finally, due to the tectonic movements of the earth's plates, the ocean bottom where the (now) amber lay rose up into the mountains of an island. When Europeans arrived there in the tiny fragment of time known as "history" in this whole unbelievable span, they dug out the amber and found the preserved proof of that one moment in an animal's activities a possible 25 million years ago !

Poinar and Poinar have created a fascinating scientific work with their reconstruction of what the forest of that epoch looked like. Using the thousands of examples of plants, seeds, petals, leaves, pollen, insects, and frogs or lizards that fell into the tree sap and were preserved like time capsules, they describe the ancient jungle long before any man trod this earth. They rely on the principle of behaviorial fixity-that is, the idea that species that fill certain ecological niches today did so in the past as well.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a phenomenal book which will present a very thorough, and brilliant, "lecture" all in a single book. The hard bound edition is beautiful, and is a book I will probably never sell, it is an excellent book!

It really is like sitting through an Ivy League lecture, though it isn't something many will find too difficult to follow (I hope. . .) It is a rare find.

I should note, most people overlook the hardbound editions, which are often cheaper than paperback :)
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Format: Paperback
Just south of the Tropic of Cancer lies a chain of islands called the Greater Antilles. There are four islands in the chain: Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cuba and, the subject of this book, Hispaniola (comprising of Haiti and Dominican Republic). Millions of years ago Hispaniola was, much like today, a tropical paradise with forested slopes and a thriving ecosystem. Within those forests lived species of Algarrobo tree (now extinct in the Greater Antilles) which exuded a kind of sticky resin that, after a time, hardened to form copal (an intermediate stage). During the intervening eons the copal became fossilized to the form we now call amber. Authors George Jr and Roberta Poinar have brought it all together in this amazing book. Between the two of them, the Poinars have spent most of their professional lives studying Entomology and amber inclusions to reconstruct a "vanished world". Roberta is also an electron microscopist and, with the help of some moderne technology, she and George have opened a window into the past. While the Algarrobo resin was still fresh it acted as a perfect litter trap for any kind of plant debris such as: leaves, flowers, pollen, etc. Animal life too found itself stuck in the sticky discharge, to be preserved, along with the plant litter, in minute detail as the resin was slowly transformed into amber. Amber is found in mines though out the world but some of the finest specimens come from the Dominican Republic and are thus named; Dominican Amber. By combining the study of amber inclusions with their knowledge of modern day plants and animals the Poinars have been able to extrapolate many details of this prehistoric world.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book gives pictures of insects that were a part of a long ago era. Most look remarkably like today's. I highly recommend it.
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By Belle on February 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book tells of the author's adventures looking for amber as well as facts about it.
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