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Extreme Nature
     

Extreme Nature

by Mark Carwardine, Rosamund Kidman Cox (With)
 

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The world's most devious plant, the largest flock of birds, the biggest drug user, the most dangerous love-life�here is a mind-blowing guide to the weirdest and most remarkable wildlife on our planet. Lavishly illustrated, this is a beautiful book to own as well as an unputdownable read.

The entries are quirky yet informative, focusing on single species with

Overview

The world's most devious plant, the largest flock of birds, the biggest drug user, the most dangerous love-life�here is a mind-blowing guide to the weirdest and most remarkable wildlife on our planet. Lavishly illustrated, this is a beautiful book to own as well as an unputdownable read.

The entries are quirky yet informative, focusing on single species with bizarre lifestyles and impressive adaptations. The main book consists of over 150 entries, organised into four sections: Extreme Growth, Extreme Abilities, Extreme Movement and Extreme Families.

Intelligently written, it is aimed at all those with an interest in wildlife. While assuming no prior knowledge on the part of its readers, it is still scientifically rigorous enough to captivate every expert. Big in format and scope, it is a gorgeous and fascinating portrait of the natural wonders of our planet.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060825744
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/28/2005
Edition description:
First U. S. Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
10.32(w) x 11.46(h) x 1.05(d)

Read an Excerpt

Extreme Nature

Chapter One

Most devious plant

Name
ghost orchid Epipogiurn aphllum

Location
North and Central Europe eastward to Japan

Ability
Cheating a fungus

The natural world, as we know it is built on partnerships. But in all societies there are cheats, and plants are no exception. Most green plants would be unable to exist without the help of fungi, which provide them with food-exchange partnerships. In fact, the invasion of the land by plants—algae—was probably only made possible by these types of partnerships. It has even been suggested that early land plants developed roots just so that they could join forces with the fungal roots, or hyphae.

Most plants are real partners, giving the carbohydrates that they manufacture using their chlorophyll. Some—notably orchids—have such a close partnership that they don't even bother to produce food packages to accompany their embryos into the world, instead relying on fungi in the soil to provide the food needed for germination and early growth. This allows an orchid to produce lightweight, microscopic seeds—millions of them.

Some orchids, however, have become cheats: they use fungi that have partnerships with trees, and they never give anything in exchange. Via fungal hyphae, these orchid vampires tap into the trees, siphoning off nutrients. The giveaway is often the fact that they have stopped producing chlorophyll. As a result, they aren't green but a rather sickly pinkish cream, like the ghost orchid, or brown, like the bird's-nest orchid. Some, such as western coralroot, are bloodred or evenpurple. The drawback is that, without the fungus, the orchid will die. And one day a fungus may just evolve a way to even the score.

Extreme Nature. Copyright � by Mark Carwardine. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Mark Carwardine is a zoologist, writer, photographer, consultant, and broadcaster with a special interest in marine wildlife. He has written more than forty books, including several bestsellers, and hosts Nature and a wide variety of other natural history programs on BBC Radio.

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