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David Quammen's book, The Song of the Dodo, is a
brilliant, stirring work, breathtaking in its scope,
far-reaching in its message -- a crucial book in
precarious times, which radically alters the way in
which we understand the natural world and our place
in that world. It's also a book full of entertainment
and wonders.

In The Song of the Dodo, we follow Quammen's keen
intellect through the ideas, theories, and experiments
of prominent naturalists of the last two centuries.
We trail after him as he travels the world,
tracking the subject of island biogeography, which
encompasses nothing less than the study of the origin
and extinction of all species. Why is this island
idea so important? Because islands are where
species most commonly go extinct -- and because, as
Quammen points out, we live in an age when all of
Earth's landscapes are being chopped into island-like
fragments by human activity.

Through his eyes, we glimpse the nature of evolution
and extinction, and in so doing come to understand
the monumental diversity of our planet, and
the importance of preserving its wild landscapes,
animals, and plants. We also meet some fascinating
human characters. By the book's end we are wiser,
and more deeply concerned, but Quammen
leaves us with a message of excitement and hope.
Published: Scribner on Mar 15, 2011
ISBN: 9781439124963
List price: $16.99
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One of the great natural history/science books of our time.read more
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One of the best natural history books I've ever read. Brilliant.read more
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This book was absolutely awesome. I read through it slowly, picking it up and putting it down inbetween other reads, and it was a great book for savoring. The book itself is structured into a few different parts, the first three or so being roughly 125 pages each or so, with another short three at the end. The first section of the book recounts the history of evolutionary theory as shaped by Islands. Quammen tells the tale of Darwin and Wallace as their island hopping voyages elucidated the problem of species. Next, Quammen goes on to explain the effects island have on the evolution of species before going on in the third section to explain the more modern developments of evolutionary theory as shaped by islands. For the remainder of the book Quammen shows the implications of the modern paradigm in evolutionary thinking (Island Biogeography) and increasing rate of extinction and loss of biodiversity. Quammen not only discusses the history of evolutionary biology but expounds on natural history as well, taking the reader on journeys into tropical islands to chase the Komodo dragon, the giant tortoises and more. In the end Quammen has left a harrowing picture of the damage humanity is doing to ecosystems and biodiversity, and how the fragmentation of biomes imposed by urban developments is only making matters worse.This is a must read for anyone interested in evolutionary biology and what its telling us about the world we live in.read more
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One of the great natural history/science books of our time.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
One of the best natural history books I've ever read. Brilliant.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book was absolutely awesome. I read through it slowly, picking it up and putting it down inbetween other reads, and it was a great book for savoring. The book itself is structured into a few different parts, the first three or so being roughly 125 pages each or so, with another short three at the end. The first section of the book recounts the history of evolutionary theory as shaped by Islands. Quammen tells the tale of Darwin and Wallace as their island hopping voyages elucidated the problem of species. Next, Quammen goes on to explain the effects island have on the evolution of species before going on in the third section to explain the more modern developments of evolutionary theory as shaped by islands. For the remainder of the book Quammen shows the implications of the modern paradigm in evolutionary thinking (Island Biogeography) and increasing rate of extinction and loss of biodiversity. Quammen not only discusses the history of evolutionary biology but expounds on natural history as well, taking the reader on journeys into tropical islands to chase the Komodo dragon, the giant tortoises and more. In the end Quammen has left a harrowing picture of the damage humanity is doing to ecosystems and biodiversity, and how the fragmentation of biomes imposed by urban developments is only making matters worse.This is a must read for anyone interested in evolutionary biology and what its telling us about the world we live in.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A witty and well-crafted series of essays on extinctions and island geography.
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Excellent discussion of human impact on the extinction of other species. Also great background on Darwin's struggle to write "Origin of Species" and the competitive race by an almost-ran scientist who came up with the same ideas at the same time.
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This is a terrific read on important biological questions which lie in the scientific stratum far above the world of molecular biology, which has come to dominate so much of the field, almost to the point of extinguishing the venerable methods of systematics, evolution, and field studies of actual organisms. Quammen transports us into a world where interactions of animals in real ecological systems are the object of study, charming us into seeing its importance, and introducing us to the people who are working to advance our understanding of the natural world.The central theme of the book is the importance that islands have played in this area of research, starting from the work of Darwin and Wallace, extending to the modern work of men such as E. O. Wilson, Macarthur, Simberloff, and Lovejoy. What is revealed is a science progressing from anecdotes and scattered observations of curiosities to something with its own generalizations and laws that can be have an increasing certainty, backed by sound statistical studies, and that produces graphs and tables, equations, useful computer models and testable hypotheses. The majesty of the process is astounding.Quammen writes clearly and spares no effort to involve the reader, mixing a historical treatment of the process, interviews of the modern players, and his own thrilling explorations of the remote islands--he splendidly communicates his excitement and involvement.
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