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The Natural History of Madagascar [Hardcover]

Steven M. Goodman , Jonathan P. Benstead , Harald Schutz

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Book Description

Jan. 1 2004
Separated from the mainland of Africa for 160 million years, Madagascar has evolved an incredible wealth of biodiversity, with thousands of species that can be found nowhere else on earth. For instance, of its estimated 12,000 plant species, nearly 10,000 are unique to Madagascar. Malagasy animals are just as spectacular, from its almost forty currently recognized species of lemurs—a primate group found only here—to the numerous species of tiny dwarf chameleons. With astounding frequency scientists discover a previously unknown species in Madagascar—and at almost the same rate another natural area of habitat is degraded or destroyed, a combination that recently led conservation organizations to name Madagascar one of the most important and threatened conservation priorities on the planet.

The Natural History of Madagascar provides the most comprehensive, up-to-date synthesis available of this island nation's priceless biological treasures. Contributions by nearly three hundred world-renowned experts cover the history of scientific exploration in Madagascar, its geology and soils, climate, forest ecology, human ecology, marine and coastal ecosystems, plants, invertebrates, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Detailed discussions of conservation efforts in Madagascar highlight several successful park reserve programs that could serve as models for other areas. Beautifully illustrated throughout, the book includes over one hundred color illustrations, with fifty color photos by nature photographer Harald Schütz, as well as more than three hundred black-and-white photographs and line drawings.

The Natural History of Madagascar will be the invaluable reference for anyone interested in the Malagasy environment, from biologists and conservationists to policymakers and ecotourists.

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Review

"The most thorough and comprehensive account of the natural history of Madagascar yet, and it will set the standard for many years to come."
(BBC Wildlife Magazine 2004-06-01)

"Sprinkled with colour photographs, The Natural History of Madagascar is an extraordinary compendium, complete and complex. Steven Goodman and Jonathan Benstead cover geological and human histories, as well as all major groups of animals and plants. . . . The introductory chapters for each of the major taxonomic groups will help to guide the novice reader into the glories and safely past the specialist shoals. . . . This wonderful book provides a magnificent overview of one of the strangest and most glorious chunks of the planet--a place that is so much more than a load of old lemurs."
(Adrian Barnett New Scientist 2004-03-08)

". . . spectacular images . . ."
(Harold Henderson Chicago Reader)

"In The Natural History of Madagascar researchers have captured the recent explosion of scientific knowledge about the unique organisms of this rugged island. In 1,700 pages, the book moves from the broad brush strokes of the island's geological history to detailed accounts of its organisms, including its famous aye-aye lemurs, its fantastical baobab trees, and its twelve-foot-tall elephant bird."
(Carol Kaesuk Yoon The New York Times 2004-03-30)

"For those who are serious about getting to know this fascinating island, there is no better resource than The Natural History of Madagascar.  It is the closest thing to a comprehensive natural history of the region ever produced."
(Tim Flannery Nature 2004-04-08)

"Given the severe threats facing the survival of Madagascar's biodiversity, this book could not have come at a better time. . . . Its accessible language and thorough coverage of the topics, in combination with its affordable price, ensures that The Natural History of Madagascar will become an indispensable resource and educational tool for all those with an interest in Madagascar."

(Summer J. Arrigo-Nelson Quarterly Review of Biology)

"A scientific milestone and by far the largest synthesis of tropical biology research ever."
(Science 2003-09-26)

"A vast and comprehensive work that will be a key reference on the country's biodiversity for years to come. It will also stand testament to the future efforts of conservationists to protect the island's unique natural heritage."
(Economist 2004-04-22)

"For anyone interested in the botany of Madagascar, I would strongly recommend this book. It contains a vast amount of information on the flora of the island and is also a major source of references to literature on the Madagascan flora."
(Peter V. Bruyns Plant Systematics and Evolution)

"As a resource . . . it stands alone. . . . This is no neo-colonial view of the island, but a modern, integrated--both biologically and culturally--look at one of the most fascinating places on Earth. . . . The book is copiously illustrated with stunning colour photographs. . . . Every scientist concerned with diversity should have this book on their shelves."
(Sandra Knapp Biological Conservation)

From the Inside Flap

Separated from the mainland of Africa for 160 million years, Madagascar has evolved an incredible wealth of biodiversity, with thousands of species that can be found nowhere else on earth. For instance, of its estimated 12,000 plant species, nearly 10,000 are unique to Madagascar. Malagasy animals are just as spectacular, from its almost forty currently recognized species of lemurs—a primate group found only here—to the numerous species of tiny dwarf chameleons. With astounding frequency scientists discover a previously unknown species in Madagascar—and at almost the same rate another natural area of habitat is degraded or destroyed, a combination that recently led conservation organizations to name Madagascar one of the most important and threatened conservation priorities on the planet.

The Natural History of Madagascar provides the most comprehensive, up-to-date synthesis available of this island nation's priceless biological treasures. Contributions by nearly three hundred world-renowned experts cover the history of scientific exploration in Madagascar, its geology and soils, climate, forest ecology, human ecology, marine and coastal ecosystems, plants, invertebrates, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Detailed discussions of conservation efforts in Madagascar highlight several successful park reserve programs that could serve as models for other areas. Beautifully illustrated throughout, the book includes over one hundred color illustrations, with fifty color photos by nature photographer Harald Schütz, as well as more than three hundred black-and-white photographs and line drawings.

The Natural History of Madagascar will be the invaluable reference for anyone interested in the Malagasy environment, from biologists and conservationists to policymakers and ecotourists.

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Natural History of Madagascar. Goodman & Bensted eds. June 25 2007
By W. Macy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This weighty volume is an edited collection of scientific papers about the natural history of the island of Madagascar- how Madagascar came to be separated from Africa; its fossil record and relationship to existing forms of plant and animal life, most specifically the unique lemurs; its landforms, climatic, and biological zones, etc. Having just returned from two week visit there, in three different areas of country, I can say that I wish I had read more of this book beforehand! I found the parts of Chapter 2 dealing with why Madagascar has such a unique collection of endemic plants and animals especially enlightening and surprising. I happen to be a marine biologist/ecologist professionally and was not put off by the specialized technical terms used by paleontologists, botanists, geologists, and so forth, but I don't think a well read lay reader will be much troubled by them either. This volume is not a guide book, however, but it is amply illustrated to demonstrate particular points. I doubt there is another single source of so much state of the art information about this extraordinary island.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Arc" of Relics Feb. 26 2008
By Dr. John W. Rippon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Natural History of Madagascar is a tome. It weighs about 8 pounds and is some 1700 pages long. It does contain information on most all living things ( and some fossils) found on the island: plants, insects, molluscs, spiders, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. This is not a field guide however. There are few illustrations and few keys to species. What is contained is informationon for understanding the systematics and phylogeny, the natural history of the various groups and the ecomorphologic diversity important in how individuals fit into the various habitats of the island. Since Madagascar has just about every conceivable ecologic niche for its sub-tropical location from bone-dry desert in the southwest to soggy rain forest on the entire east coast and everything in between. The island is essentially a shoe shape (left) with the toe pointing north and a high mountain range running south to north. The island broke away from Gondwana still attached to India some 120 mya and then separated from the west coast of India in the mid late Cretaceous. This has led to a burgeoning of endemism in all forms of life. Though an isolated "arc" island carrying its load of archaic animals and plants and allowing for its own pattern of evolution, it was not without occasional input from the outside world. Animals and plants could literally "barge" in on detritus rafts and introduce new groups. Whether or not the new species survived and prospered depended on their ability to fit in some niche. This has led to some interesting complexities of the species lists. There are no dog family or cat family predators. Civets and Mongooses fill some of the roles and large Lemurs and birds may have also. Then the late arrival human predator eliminated all of the larger animals and birds. On the other hand you have many relics still prospering whereas elsewhere they have been supplanted or died out. Tenrecs and Lemurs are among them. As a botanic example we can look at palms. On the whole continent of Africa there are some thirty species; on Madagascar 130. As noted in the discussion many "endemics" are really relics of evolutionay lines that died out on the main continents.
Other chapters have discussions on the physiologic adaptations of animals and plants that allow them to exploit the niches. Data is also found on some of the infectious diseases, parasitic, bacterial and viral for some of the animals. In my own area of fungal infections of animals, it is noted that several tenrec species had evidence Pneumocystis carinii, a strange ascomycetous fungus.
In the early chapters there is extensive coverage of rainfall and climate, soil types and geologic formations, fossils, origins of the Malagasy peoples that arrived only two thousand years ago and the culture and agriculture they now practice.
Its the kind of book I love - filled with biologic trivia - and it is good background for the serious natural history traveler. I'll be there soon.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbook ! March 31 2008
By M. G. Kuijpers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is for sure one of the heaviest books in my library, but what a book it is !

Everything you always wanted to know about Madagascar, and more, is in it.
From soil types to the use of the local plants,from Nile crocodiles to lemurs...incredible to see all these scientific papers bundeled together.

Are you studying Madagascar in any way this book is a must have.
Interested in the fauna,flora,geology,history...this book is what you need !

This book has a solid scientific base the text reflects this, keep this in mind. The photos are rare in this book but drawings and maps make up for this (as does the excellent text).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what expected Dec 14 2008
By Nils Henninger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Natural History of Madagascar provides a very (maybe the most) comprehensive review of the, well, natural history of Madagascar. It does an outstanding job at that and is easy to read (my background is in medicine, so I might be a little biased). As previously mentioned, this is not a coffee table book-few photographs. But this is hardly a shortcoming of this monumental work.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate book on Madagascan natural history Dec 26 2013
By malcolm glennie holmes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This massive tome is for the scientist, not the casual reader. At 1700 pages, it's too heavy to hold and has to be read spread on a table. If you want to know some arcane point about a lesser-known detail of a little-known facet of a just-discovered lesser spotted chameleon, which is only found within a 50-metre radius of an inaccessible spot on the very edge of the north coast, this is the book for you.

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