Here Be Dragons: How the study of animal and plant distributions revolutionized our views of life and Earth [NOOK Book]

Overview

Why do we find polar bears only in the Arctic and penguins only in the Antarctic? Why do oceanic islands often have many types of birds but no large native mammals?

As Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace travelled across distant lands studying the wildlife they both noticed that the distribution of plants and animals formed striking patterns - patterns that held strong...
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Here Be Dragons: How the study of animal and plant distributions revolutionized our views of life and Earth

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Overview

Why do we find polar bears only in the Arctic and penguins only in the Antarctic? Why do oceanic islands often have many types of birds but no large native mammals?

As Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace travelled across distant lands studying the wildlife they both noticed that the distribution of plants and animals formed striking patterns - patterns that held strong clues to the past of the planet.

The study of the spatial distribution of living things is known as biogeography. It is a field that could be said to have begun with Darwin and Wallace. In this lively book, Denis McCarthy tells the story of biogeography, from the 19th century to its growth into a major field of interdisciplinary research in the present day. It is a story that encompasses two great, insightful theories that were to provide the explanations to the strange patterns of life across the world - evolution, and plate
tectonics.

We find animals and plants where we do because, over time, the continents have moved, separating and coalescing in a long, slow dance; because sea levels have risen, cutting off one bit of land from another, and fallen, creating land bridges; because new and barren volcanic islands have risen up from the sea; and because animals and plants vary greatly in their ability to travel, and separation has caused the formation of new species. The story of biogeography is the story of how life has
responded and has in turn altered the ever changing Earth. It is a narrative that includes many fascinating tales - of pygmy mammoths and elephant birds; of changing landscapes; of radical ideas by bold young scientists first dismissed and later, with vastly growing evidence, widely accepted. The story is
not yet done: there are still questions to be answered and biogeography is a lively area of research and debate. But our view of the planet has been changed profoundly by biogeography and its related fields: the emerging understanding is of a deeply interconnected system in which life and physical forces interact dynamically in space and time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780191619731
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford
  • Publication date: 10/22/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 727,707
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Dennis McCarthy is a researcher at the Museum of Natural History in Buffalo.

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Table of Contents

Preface: That Grand Subject

1. Galapagan Epiphany

2. The Mesosarus Problem

3. Pygmy Mammoths and Mysterious Islands

4. The Volcanic Ring That Changed the World

5. The Bloody Fall of South America and the Last of the Jurassic Beak-Headed Reptiles

6. Enchanted Waters

7. The Battle Over Eden

8. The Mysteries That Remain

9. The Grand Coalescence of Life and Earth

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Indeed, here be dragons and everything else!

    McCarthy does an admirable job of presenting the importance of biogeography (an understanding of the distribution of organisms) in its historical and broader biological context, bringing together discovery travel, many aspects of biology, geology,and presenting the work of a wide variety of important researchers. His presentation is both well informed and very accessible to the non-specialist. Well written and well documented, I highly recommend this book to any who are curious about the world.

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  • Posted October 27, 2009

    Splendid read that makes you see life and earth in a new way

    One of the best popular science books on evolution or planetary science I've read. "Here be Dragons" introduces the reader to the subject of biogeography -- a subject that few people know about but has been instrumental in changing our views on plants, animals and even the planet. Filled with discussions of numerous fascinating creatures, located in various exotic places, the book shows how important it is to understand how evolution and various geological processes like continental drift have created the various geographical patterns of plants and animals -- the marsupials of Australia; the sloths of South America, the giant ratite birds of the Southern Hemisphere.
    And you can look at these patterns to help determine the evolutionary and geological history of the regions. The author, Dennis McCarthy, argues that you really can't understand evolution until you understand it biogeographically, until you understand the intricate connection between life and Earth, and he proves his point in a lively and interesting fashion.
    [My favorite chapter is on the "Bloody Fall of South America." Extraordinary!]

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