Once and Future Giants: What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us About the Fate of Earth's Largest Animals

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Overview

Until about 13,000 years ago, North America was home to a menagerie of massive mammals. Mammoths, camels, and lions walked the ground that has become Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and foraged on the marsh land now buried beneath Chicago's streets. Then, just as the first humans reached the Americas, these Ice Age giants vanished forever.

In Once and Future Giants, science writer Sharon Levy digs through the evidence surrounding Pleistocene large animal ("megafauna") ...

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Once and Future Giants: What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us About the Fate of Earth's Largest Animals

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Overview

Until about 13,000 years ago, North America was home to a menagerie of massive mammals. Mammoths, camels, and lions walked the ground that has become Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and foraged on the marsh land now buried beneath Chicago's streets. Then, just as the first humans reached the Americas, these Ice Age giants vanished forever.

In Once and Future Giants, science writer Sharon Levy digs through the evidence surrounding Pleistocene large animal ("megafauna") extinction events worldwide, showing that understanding this history—and our part in it—is crucial for protecting the elephants, polar bears, and other great creatures at risk today. These surviving relatives of the Ice Age beasts now face the threat of another great die-off, as our species usurps the planet's last wild places while driving a warming trend more extreme than any in mammalian history. Deftly navigating competing theories and emerging evidence, Once and Future Giants examines the extent of human influence on megafauna extinctions past and present, and explores innovative conservation efforts around the globe. The key to modern-day conservation, Levy suggests, may lie fossilized right under our feet.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sharon Levy does a marvellous job of explaining the complex and competing theories behind these mass Pleistocene extinctions, while capturing the fervour and enthusiasm of the scientists who dedicate their lives to solving the mystery." —Kat Austen, New Scientist

"Beautifully connects the world as we know it to one that, on a geological scale, disappeared only yesterday.... Levy's book effectively states the case for those who want to heal ecological wounds thought to have been opened by prehistoric humans." —Brian Switek, Wired

"The book tackles the often conflicting theories and research in such a way that lay readers can understand what scientists think happened in the past and what they see happening now. But the big question is whether we can reverse these trends. Levy outlines possible methods to save some of the living megafauna and rebalance ecosystems.... Highly recommended for all interested readers." —Library Journal

"In a series of fascinating discussions Levy breathes life into these long-extinct animals, introduces readers to important lessons to be learned from extinction events, and considers proposals for resurrecting Ice Age ecosystems.... This well-written, general interest book on basic ecology will interest anyone concerned about the health of the environment and the importance of conserving dwindling wilderness resources." —Choice

"The book provides, in a more convincing way than I have read anywhere else, an integrated account of the past extinction of megafauna, the impact of these losses on the modern world, and the present status and conservation of large mammals globally." —Adrian Lister, PLoS Biology

"It seems likely that human hunting played some part in many of these extinctions.... Biologist and journalist Sharon Levy lays out the evidence for this theory—and explores what this species drain can teach us now. The patterns and consequences of the Pleistocene die-offs can help us to predict how landscapes will change if we lose big mammals, and help us to spot warning signs of impending extinctions." —Emma Marris, Nature

"I found this educational and extremely interesting. Levy paints a picture of the Pleistocene that easily draws the reader into the prehistoric world of the megafauna." — Biological Conservation

Library Journal
Levy, a freelance science writer, discusses human impact on large animals ranging from as far back as the Pleistocene to the present and how these extinctions affected the ecosystems in which they lived. Most important, what do these historic extinctions and resulting ecological impacts suggest for the modern die out of large predators and herbivores such as tigers and elephants? We know that human pressure is driving many animals to extinction and are now seeing it also impact local environments in unexpected ways. The book tackles the often conflicting theories and research in such a way that lay readers can understand what scientists think happened in the past and what they see happening now. But the big question is whether we can reverse these trends. Levy outlines possible methods to save some of the living megafauna and rebalance ecosystems. VERDICT Levy documents the science with 17 pages of notes and bibliographic citations that will allow readers to continue investigating the topics. Highly recommended for all interested readers.—Betty Galbraith, Washington State Univ. Science & Engineering Lib., Pullman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199931163
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2012
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 740,974
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Sharon Levy is a freelance science writer who specializes in making natural resource and conservation issues accessible for a broad audience. She is a contributing editor at OnEarth magazine and writes regularly for National Wildlife, BioScience, and New Scientist. Her work has appeared in Nature, Natural History, Audubon, High Country News, and Discovery Channel Online. She lives in Humboldt County, California.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
1. Elegy for the Mastodon
2. Mammoth Tracks
3. Giants Down Under
4. Wild Dreams
5. Wild Realities
6. The Big Heat
7. Dead Beasts Walking
References
Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 13, 2012

    The book, Once and Future Giants explores the loss of America¿s

    The book, Once and Future Giants explores the loss of America’s megafaunas, or large mammals after the Pleistocene age. Some examples of the megafauna that used to be in North America are the elephant, the mammoth, the giant ground sloth, and the camel. The author Sharon Levy explores the possible reasoning for the extinction of the mammoth. She explains what effects the loss of these large mammals might have had in America. Lastly she provides a possible solution to the problem that was created when these large mammals became extinct in North America.
    It is truly amazing to think that only 12,000 years or so ago that mammals like the wooly mammoth were living in the country that I live in today. Its spectacular to think of what life would be like if these animals were still a part of our ecosystem. Sharon Levy points the reader in the view of this being an actual possibility.
    I thought that the book was an interesting read. The book was well written and contained a large amount of information that backs up the author’s theories. The author goes into an extensive amount of depth in order to back up the theories that she supports and her own theories. I think that with all the information Sharon Levy provided, the credibility of her theories is more valid in the eyes of her readers.
    If I was to point out a possible negative comment it would be that Levy’s Pleistocene re-wilding theory is a little too extreme.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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