Portraits of the Rainforest

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A tiny rufous-tailed hummingbird hovers before the bright inflorescence of a heliconia. Undetected by the foraging bird a golden eyelash viper is curled motionless around the plant. An instant later, this subtle configuration of flora and fauna is shattered by the snake's sudden strike.

Portraits of the Rainforest explores the precarious contingencies that determine the nature of tropical life, and award-winning Adrian Forsyth approaches his subject with a "mixture of hope and ...

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Overview

A tiny rufous-tailed hummingbird hovers before the bright inflorescence of a heliconia. Undetected by the foraging bird a golden eyelash viper is curled motionless around the plant. An instant later, this subtle configuration of flora and fauna is shattered by the snake's sudden strike.

Portraits of the Rainforest explores the precarious contingencies that determine the nature of tropical life, and award-winning Adrian Forsyth approaches his subject with a "mixture of hope and trepidation." A biologist who has spent 20 years working in the rainforest, Forsyth has observed firsthand the ravaging effects of agricultural, economic and environmental policies on an ecosystem under siege.

Yet in this collection of essays, he has chosen to celebrate the rainforest rather than to lament its loss. The rainforest plays a variety of roles — as a genetic reservoir, a pharmacy of natural products and a carbon dioxide exchange system — but for Forsyth, its true value rests with something less functional. The rainforest, he argues, represents the pinnacle of biological diversity and evolutionary sophistication on this planet.

Forsyth draws on his own extensive experience in the rainforest to make this fascinating habitat tangible for his readers. The result is a creative, anecdotal text that in each chapter follows a thread of adaptive Darwinian logic through some part of the rainforest. The exquisite photography of Michael and Patricia Fogden helps to make Portraits of the Rainforest an unforgettable journey.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780921820994
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/1/1995
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 156
  • Product dimensions: 10.14 (w) x 11.24 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

An award-winning natural-science writer, Adrian Forsyth is a senior biodiversity scientist based at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of The Nature of Birds, A Natural History of Sex, Mammals of North America: Temperate and Arctic Regions and How Monkeys Make Chocolate.

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Table of Contents

Forest of Dreams: A Foreword by E.O. Wilson

Preface: Flower for a day

Roots of Diversity: The Origins of Tropical Variety

Frogs: Life History Strategies in Rainforest Amphibians

Rarity: Why Rare Species are Common in the Tropics

The Essence of Snake: The Foraging Tactics of Serpents

Fruits of Reason: Interpreting the Meaning of Tropical Fruit

Tails of Glory: The Ecology of Prehensile Tails

Salts of the Earth: Nutrient Cycles in Tropical Forests

Hermits and Heliconias: The Microcosm of Plant and Animal Coevolution

The Use of Magic: The Making of Indigenous Knowledge

Termites and Tamanduas: The Role of Wood Eating in Tropical Ecology

The Hidden: The Adaptive Coloration of Prey and Predators

Fishes Fat and Fierce: Encounters With Underwater Amazonia

The Virtues of Sloth: Adaptations to Life in the Canopy

Beetlejuice: Chemical Defense by Insects and Other Arthropods

El Tigre: Why Jaguars Are the Ultimate Predator

Beyond the Gun: A Journey Into Virgin Amazonia

Further Reading
Index

Author Biography: An award-winning natural-science writer, Forsyth is a senior biodiversity scientist based at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of The Nature of Birds, The Natural History of Sex, Mammals of North America: Temperate and Arctic Regions and How Monkeys Make Chocolate.

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