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    Most people are familiar with the dodo and the dinosaur, but extinction has occurred throughout the history of life, with the result that nearly all the species that have ever existed are now extinct. Today, species are disappearing at an ever increasing rate, while past losses have occurred during several great crises. Issues such as habitat destruction, conservation, climate change, and, during major crises, volacanism and meteorite impact, can all contribute towards the demise of a group.

    In this Very Short Introduction, Paul B. Wignall looks at the causes and nature of extinctions, past and present, and the factors that can make a species vulnerable. Summarizing what we know about all of the major and minor extinction events, he examines some of the greatest debates in modern science, such as the relative role of climate and humans in the death of the Pleistocene megafauna, including mammoths and giant ground sloths, and the roles that global warming, ocean acidification, and deforestation are playing in present-day extinctions.

    ©2019 Paul B. Wignall (P)2019 Tantor

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    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
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    • Amazon Customer
    • 22/06/2020

    A short brief summary of mass extinctions

    I was attracted to this book because Paul Wignall is a well known paleontologist, and has written extensively on the Permian / Triassic mass extinction, and other mass extinctions in general. This book is from the "Very short introductions" series, so isn't as in depth as his other works, however it is a nicely distilled summary of what science knows about extinctions.

    I enjoyed the summaries of the mass extinction events, however perhaps the most engaging part of the book was when it detailed Holocene mass extinction, and placed it in the context of patterns of biodiversity.

    It's a short book, but covers a lot, without being to dense. If you want more on this subject, I would recommend anything by the same author, Peter Ward or Michael Benton.

    • Global
      4 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      3 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
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    • Kau
    • 29/12/2019

    A fantastic primer!

    This is an excellent primer on extinctions - what we know, how we think we know these things, and what we don’t have a good idea about, including drivers, mechanisms, and processes. In his tone, the author leans somewhat towards the fringe side by giving real estate to discussions such as a cometary driver for the Younger Dryas event (occurring relatively recently ~12,000 years ago) and some other controversial aspects (like the debate on Neanderthals), although, he is very objective in his narration & I believe, balances the evidence rather nicely. There were critical bits about IPCC projections that I found were not wholly necessary, although these appeared to be balanced by appraisals of the advantages that other governmental regulatory bodies have brought to policy (e.g. CITES). Overall, as has been the case for others in the “Very Short Introduction” series, I found this book to be informative and enjoyable! The one downside was the narration which included explicitly spelling out abbreviations such as "e.g." or "P-Tr" which made it somewhat jarring.