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Twilight of the Mammoths:: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America (Organisms and Environments) Paperback – May 8, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Paleontologist Martin delivers an energetic and highly entertaining look at one of the most controversial issues in his field of geoscience: overkill, the argument that "virtually all extinctions of wild animals in the last 50,000 years are anthropogenic, that is, caused by humans" and not by climate change. As one of the leading advocates of this theory, Martin uses his own extensive research—as well as amusing insights from his personal life and career—to make his case. He draws on studies from Costa Rica and Madagascar to California and the Grand Canyon, and brings alive on the page such extinct creatures as mammoths, mastodons and the "gentle giant" ground sloths, which he shows were present in North America before the arrival of prehistoric people. He is quite fair in presenting opposing arguments and displays his ability to explain complex concepts in understandable ways. But while Martin is convincing in his reasoning and his suggestions for developing new ecological parks to increase our appreciation of the lost beasts, what is most memorable is his ability to show that "we are half blind if we behold the Grand Canyon without visions" of its extinct species. 17 b&w photos, 12 line drawings. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Once upon a time--say 13,000 years ago--armadillos the size of small cars, sloths the size of bull elephants, and lizards as large as school buses roamed the earth. Tyrannosaurus rex was toast, but other giant species of mammals, reptiles, and birds populated the planet in staggering numbers. And then Homo sapiens came along, and one by one these great beasts disappeared. Early humans hunted to excess, destroyed animal habitats, and introduced alien species and diseases into a once pristine wilderness. Sound familiar? This, in the simplest of terms, is paleontologist Martin's controversial "overkill" theory of megafauna extinction, one he has devoted the last 50 years of his life to resolving. Balancing scientific data with scintillating tales of archaeological adventures, Martin presents a sometimes cautionary tale in which he urges the celebration of these extinct marvels as a way of not only appreciating the vast biotic wealth of our planet but also as a means of inspiring today's conservation efforts. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Most of the book focusses on Dr. Martin's work in the American Southwest, in particular, his study of pack rat middens in the Grand Canyon and the remarkable Rampart Cave, one of the truly amazing paleontological sites in the United States. There are interesting discussions of the tantalizing clues that point in the direction of overkill as the cause of extinction - clues left both by the living and the dead - mammoth butchering sites; ecological "orphans" (osage orange, Kentucky coffee); pronghorn antelope speed needed to escape long-vanished American cheetahs; analogous disappearances of megafauna worldwide immediately upon human arrival (New Zealand, Madagascar et al).
The final parts of the book discuss how a truly natural American landscape might look, and suggests that a reintroduction of species we would view as exotic - elephants, camels, lions, etc - would in fact be a restart of evolution with guild members only recently absent.
Well worthwhile, as is all of Dr. Martin's work.