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The Last Tortoise: A Tale of Extinction in Our Lifetime
Synopses & Reviews
Tortoises may be the first family of higher animals to become extinct in the coming decades. They are losing the survival race because of what distinguishes them, in particular their slow, steady pace of life and reproduction.
The Last Tortoise offers an introduction to these remarkable animals and the extraordinary adaptations that have allowed them to successfully populate a diverse range of habitats--from deserts to islands to tropical forests. The shields that protect their shoulders and ribs have helped them evade predators. They are also safeguarded by their extreme longevity and long period of fertility. Craig Stanford details how human predation has overcome these evolutionary advantages, extinguishing several species and threatening the remaining forty-five.
At the center of this beautifully written work is Stanford's own research in the Mascarene and Galapagos Islands, where the plight of giant tortoise populations illustrates the threat faced by all tortoises. He addresses unique survival problems, from genetic issues to the costs and benefits of different reproductive strategies. Though the picture Stanford draws is bleak, he offers reason for hope in the face of seemingly inevitable tragedy. Like many intractable environmental problems, extinction is not manifest destiny. Focusing on tortoise nurseries and breeding facilities, the substitution of proxy species for extinct tortoises, and the introduction of species to new environments, Stanford's work makes a persuasive case for the future of the tortoise in all its rich diversity.
Book News Annotation:
Stanford (biological sciences and anthropology, U. of Southern California) draws on both his fields, and his long experience studying large mammals, many of which are also at risk of extinction, to cry out a warning that species of tortoises are being exterminated as he writes. The problem, he explains, is that the exploding global market for turtle and tortoise meat for food, shells for medicine, and live creatures for pets and display are reducing the wild populations below survival density without poachers being aware of it. He discusses what tortoises and turtles are, their long lives, ancient lands, eating tortoises, beloved captives, and solutions. Belknap Press in an imprint of Harvard University Press. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Craig B. Stanford is Professor of Biological Sciences and Anthropology and Co-Director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at the University of Southern California.
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History and Social Science » World History » General