End of the megafauna : the fate of the world's hugest, fiercest, and strangest animals / Ross D.E. MacPhee ; with illustrations by Peter Schouten.

By: MacPhee, R. D. E
Material type: TextTextPublisher: New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., [2019]Edition: First editionDescription: xiii, 236 pages : illustrations (chiefly color), maps (chiefly color) ; 26 cmISBN: 9780393249293; 0393249298Subject(s): Extinct animals | Extinction (Biology) | Animals -- Effect of human beings on | Morphology (Animals) | Body sizeSummary: "The fascinating lives and puzzling demise of some of the largest animals on earth. Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller--including gorilla-sized lemurs, 800-pound birds, crocodiles that weighed a ton or more--roamed the earth. These great beasts, or "megafauna," lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone. What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths? No one event can be pinpointed as a specific cause, but several factors may have played a role. Paleomammologist Ross D.E. MacPhee explores them all, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to account for critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses. Along the way, we learn how time is determined in earth history; how DNA is used to explain the genomics and phylogenetic history of megafauna--and how synthetic biology and genetic engineering may be able to reintroduce these giants of the past. Until then, gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten re-create these megabeasts here in vivid detail."-- Provided by publisher.
List(s) this item appears in: New Popular Science Books | New Adult Nonfiction
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Adult Book Phillipsburg Free Public Library
Adult Non-Fiction New Books 591.41 MAC Available 36748002467472
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller--including gorilla-sized lemurs, 500-pound birds, and crocodiles that weighed a ton or more--roamed the earth. These great beasts, or "megafauna," lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone.What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths? No one event can be pinpointed as a specific cause, but several factors may have played a role. Paleomammalogist Ross D. E. MacPhee explores them all, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to account for critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses.Along the way, we learn how time is determined in earth history; how DNA is used to explain the genomics and phylogenetic history of megafauna--and how synthetic biology and genetic engineering may be able to reintroduce these giants of the past. Until then, gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten re-create these megabeasts here in vivid detail.

Includes bibliographical references (pages 199-223) and index.

"The fascinating lives and puzzling demise of some of the largest animals on earth. Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller--including gorilla-sized lemurs, 800-pound birds, crocodiles that weighed a ton or more--roamed the earth. These great beasts, or "megafauna," lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone. What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths? No one event can be pinpointed as a specific cause, but several factors may have played a role. Paleomammologist Ross D.E. MacPhee explores them all, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to account for critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses. Along the way, we learn how time is determined in earth history; how DNA is used to explain the genomics and phylogenetic history of megafauna--and how synthetic biology and genetic engineering may be able to reintroduce these giants of the past. Until then, gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten re-create these megabeasts here in vivid detail."-- Provided by publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Kirkus Book Review

Working the "borderland between archeology and paleontology," a paleomammalogist examines a suite of causes for the extinction of large animals during the late Pleistocene.In 1814, when John James Audubon observed a flock of passenger pigeons over the Ohio River, the population numbered in the untold billions. A century later, the last passenger pigeon died in a zoo. That, notes MacPhee (Race to the End: Amundsen, Scott, and the Attainment of the South Pole, 2010, etc.), who has worked at the American Museum of Natural History for three decades, is the "fastest decline on record for a vertebrate with an initially large population size"and, he adds cautiously, the "most supported" cause is overhunting. Why the caution, when the historical record is full of accounts of passenger pigeons being blasted out of the sky? Because the author is wrestling with the thorny question of what brought on the deaths of so many large animals, including mastodons, marsupial lions, dodos, and baboon lemurs. In a noir film, the smoking gun would be in the hands of the humans who just happened to show around the time of extinction. In science, greater care must be taken in establishing causality, and even if MacPhee bridles at the line of argument established by Paul Martin and his followers blaming the megafaunal extinction on the human "blitzkrieg," he at least includes human killing among the causes. Others factors include climate change, the collapse of food webs, and the introduction of invasive species. Concluding that there is no compelling common cause in the extinctions, MacPhee closes by considering the possibilities of genetically reviving lost species, or "de-extinction," noting, finally, "it is to be hoped that any brave new creations can be integrated into existing ecosystems without destroying themsomething we have been unable to do with ourselves, for at least the last 50,000 years."So why did all those critters go extinct? MacPhee suggests rather than asserts, but his book, featuring beautiful illustrations from Schouten, adds thoughtful fuel to a scholarly debate that shows no signs of ending. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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