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The Natural History of Madagascar Hardcover – Jan 1 2004

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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
The Natural History of Madagascar. Goodman & Bensted eds. June 25 2007
By W. Macy - Published on
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
Superbook ! March 31 2008
By M. G. Kuijpers - Published on
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).
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The "Arc" of Relics Feb. 26 2008
By Dr. John W. Rippon - Published on
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Exactly what expected Dec 14 2008
By Nils Henninger - Published on
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
The ultimate book on Madagascan natural history Dec 26 2013
By malcolm glennie holmes - Published on
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.