Extinction : Bad Genes or Bad Luck?

Overview

This is the first major book to present a comprehensive overview of the current state of extinction studies. At the end of the journey, Raup has put forward the best science of the day to answer the question posed by the title: Bad genes or bad luck?
In the geological record, there are five major mass extinctions—the "Big Five." The most famous happened at the end of the Cretaceous Period, when the dinosaurs and two-thirds of all marine animal species were wiped out, opening the...

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Overview

This is the first major book to present a comprehensive overview of the current state of extinction studies. At the end of the journey, Raup has put forward the best science of the day to answer the question posed by the title: Bad genes or bad luck?
In the geological record, there are five major mass extinctions—the "Big Five." The most famous happened at the end of the Cretaceous Period, when the dinosaurs and two-thirds of all marine animal species were wiped out, opening the door for the age of mammals and the rise of Homo Sapiens. Using this example as a springboard, David M. Raup leaps into an egaging discussion of the theories, assumptions, and difficulties associated with the science of species extinction. Woven is along the way are stories of the trilobite eye, tropical reefs, flying reptiles, and the fate of the heath hen on Martha's Vineyard, a very modern extinction.

The science of extinction is a lively and moveable feast of scientific speculation and research. Scientist/author David Raup takes the subject of nature's disappearing act to task, covering everything from the Ice Age Blitzkreig to the fate of the marshes on Martha's Vineyard, the extinction of flying reptiles to mankind's impact on tropical reefs. Graphs.

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Editorial Reviews

Malcolm W. Browne - New York Times Book Review
“An eminently entertaining and informative read.”
Clark R. Chapman
“A delightful little book about life on this planet and about extinctions, in particular. It is as much about the philosophy and methodology of science as about the downside of evolution.”
Roger Lewin
“David Raup's Extinction will change the way many of us perceive our world. In a style that is both elegant and persuasive, Raup undercuts the popular and comfortable notions that extinction is a mark of failure. . . . We are shown a world that is less certain, but in many ways more interesting than the one we imagined we occupied.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Raup takes up a cocktail-party science topic--Why do entire branches of life ``suddenly'' (in geologic time) disappear?--and gives it weight and validity. Despite the catchy title, Raup's presentation is plenty rigorous, drawing in just enough geology, anthropology, biostatistics and yes, even the Alvarez meteor/earth cataclysm, to send readers looking for additional reading on current evolutionary theory. Fans of Stephen Jay Gould will find a similarly fluent and friendly lecture style here. University of Chicago professor Raup is coauthor of several standard graduate-level texts on paleontology and evolution. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Sept . )
Library Journal
Scientists have directed a good deal of attention to the topic of extinction in recent years. In this book, Raup, a mathematically oriented paleontologist, discusses the role of extinction in evolution, attempting to differentiate the effects of natural selection (``bad genes'') and extraterrestrial causes (``bad luck''). It is a nicely done work written for the layperson, much in the vein of his previous book, The Nemesis Affair ( LJ 8/86), which covers some of the same territory and which also favors extraterrestrial causes. This book should serve as a complement to the relatively few other recent works on extinction for the nonspecialist, notably Steven M. Stanley's Extinction (Scientific American Lib., 1987), which offers an alternative viewpoint.--Joseph Hannibal, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393309270
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/1992
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,057,173
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David M. Raup is the Sewell Avery Distinguished Service Professor and a statistical paleontologist at the University of Chicago.

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University. He published over twenty books, received the National Book and National Book Critics Circle Awards, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

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