The Ascent of Birds
Author: John Reilly
When and where did the ancestors of modern birds evolve? What enabled them to survive the meteoric impact that wiped out the dinosaurs? How did these early birds spread across the globe and give rise to the 10,600-plus species we recognise today ― from the largest ratites to the smallest hummingbirds? Based on the latest scientific discoveries and enriched by personal observations, The Ascent of Birds sets out to answer these fundamental questions. The Ascent of Birds is divided into self-contained chapters, or stories, that collectively encompass the evolution of modern birds from their origins in Gondwana, over 100 million years ago, to the present day. The stories are arranged in chronological order, from tinamous to tanagers, and describe the many dispersal and speciation events that underpin the world's 10,600-plus species. Although each chapter is spearheaded by a named bird and focuses on a specific evolutionary mechanism, the narrative will often explore the relevance of such events and processes to evolution in general. The book starts with The Tinamou's Story, which explains the presence of flightless birds in South America, Africa, and Australasia, and dispels the cherished role of continental drift as an explanation for their biogeography. It also introduces the concept of neoteny, an evolutionary trick that enabled dinosaurs to become birds and humans to conquer the planet. The Vegavis's Story explores the evidence for a Cretaceous origin of modern birds and why they were able to survive the asteroid collision that saw the demise not only of dinosaurs but of up to three-quarters of all species. The Duck's Story switches to sex: why have so few species retained the ancestral copulatory organ? Or, put another way, why do most birds exhibit the paradoxical phenomenon of penis loss, despite all species requiring internal fertilisation? The Hoatzin's Story reveals unexpected oceanic rafting from Africa to South America: a stranger-than-fiction means of dispersal that is now thought to account for the presence of other South American vertebrates, including geckos and monkeys. The latest theories underpinning speciation are also explored. The Manakin's Story, for example, reveals how South America's extraordinarily rich avifauna has been shaped by past geological, oceanographic and climatic changes, while The Storm-Petrel's Story examines how species can evolve from an ancestral population despite inhabiting the same geographical area. The thorny issue of what constitutes a species is discussed in The Albatross's Story, while The Penguin's Story explores the effects of environment on phenotype ― in the case of the Emperor penguin, the harshest on the planet. Recent genomic advances have given scientists novel approaches to explore the distant past and have revealed many unexpected journeys, including the unique overland dispersal of an early suboscine from Asia to South America (The Sapayoa's Story) and the blackbird's ancestral sweepstake dispersals across the Atlantic (The Thrush's Story). Additional vignettes update more familiar concepts that encourage speciation: sexual selection (The Bird-of-Paradise's Story); extended phenotypes (The Bowerbird's Story); hybridisation (The Sparrow's Story); and 'great speciators' (The White-eye's Story). Finally, the book explores the raft of recent publications that help explain the evolution of cognitive skills (The Crow's Story); plumage colouration (The Starling's Story); and birdsong (The Finch's Story)
An exploration of all that is known about the origin of birds and of avian flight. It draws on fossil evidence and studies of the structure and biochemistry of living birds to present knowledge and data on avian evolution and to propose a new model of this evolutionary process.
Author: Lars Jonsson
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
In this stunning book, Lars Jonsson celebrates and explores the beauty of the birds that surround him during the Swedish winter months. Inspired by the desolate, wintry landscapes, the dazzling light and the stark contract of colours he observes against the snow, Jonsson has created an unparalleled collection of art. Jonsson illustrates each bird in his classic style, and his text provides information on their behaviour and insights into how to identify them as he shares personal observations as both an artist and ornithologist. This unique combination offers an intimate and compelling opportunity to better understand the method behind one of the world's preeminent bird artists.
Author: Clint W. Boal
Publisher: Island Press
Raptors are an unusual success story of wildness thriving in the heart of our cities—they have developed substantial populations around the world in recent decades. But there are deeper issues around how these birds make their urban homes. New research provides insight into the role of raptors as vital members of the urban ecosystem and future opportunities for protection, management, and environmental education. A cutting-edge synthesis of over two decades of scientific research, Urban Raptors is the first book to offer a complete overview of urban ecosystems in the context of bird-of-prey ecology and conservation. This comprehensive volume examines urban environments, explains why some species adapt to urban areas but others do not, and introduces modern research tools to help in the study of urban raptors. It also delves into climate change adaptation, human-wildlife conflict, and the unique risks birds of prey face in urban areas before concluding with real-world wildlife management case studies and suggestions for future research and conservation efforts. Boal and Dykstra have compiled the go-to single source of information on urban birds of prey. Among researchers, urban green space planners, wildlife management agencies, birders, and informed citizens alike, Urban Raptors will foster a greater understanding of birds of prey and an increased willingness to accommodate them as important members, not intruders, of our cities.
Where Song Began
Author: Tim Low
Publisher: Yale University Press
An authoritative and entertaining exploration of Australia's distinctive birds and their unheralded role in global evolution Renowned for its gallery of unusual mammals, Australia is also a land of extraordinary birds. But unlike the mammals, the birds of Australia flew beyond the continent's boundaries and around the globe many millions of years ago. This eye-opening book tells the dynamic but little-known story of how Australia provided the world with songbirds and parrots, among other bird groups, why Australian birds wield surprising ecological power, how Australia became a major evolutionary center, and why scientific biases have hindered recognition of these discoveries. From violent, swooping magpies to tool-making cockatoos, Australia's birds are strikingly different from birds of other lands--often more intelligent and aggressive, often larger and longer-lived. Tim Low, a renowned biologist with a rare storytelling gift, here presents the amazing evolutionary history of Australia's birds. The story of the birds, it turns out, is inseparable from the story of the continent itself and also the people who inhabit it.
Author: Gerald Mayr
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Knowledge of the evolutionary history of birds has much improved in recent decades. Fossils from critical time periods are being described at unprecedented rates and modern phylogenetic analyses have provided a framework for the interrelationships of the extant groups. This book gives an overview of the avian fossil record and its paleobiological significance, and it is the only up-to-date textbook that covers both Mesozoic and more modern-type Cenozoic birds in some detail. The reader is introduced to key features of basal avians and the morphological transformations that have occurred in the evolution towards modern birds. An account of the Cenozoic fossil record sheds light on the biogeographic history of the extant avian groups and discusses fossils in the context of current phylogenetic hypotheses. This review of the evolutionary history of birds not only addresses students and established researchers, but it may also be a useful source of information for anyone else with an interest in the evolution of birds and a moderate background in biology and geology.
Author: Julian P. Hume
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Extinct Birds was the first comprehensive review of the hundreds of the bird species and subspecies that have become extinct over the last 1,000 years of habitat degradation, over-hunting and rat introduction. It has become the standard text on this subject, covering both familiar icons of extinction as well as more obscure birds, some known from just one specimen or from travellers' tales. This second edition is expanded to include dozens of new species, as more are constantly added to the list, either through extinction or through new subfossil discoveries. Extinct Birds is the result of decades of research into literature and museum drawers, as well as caves and subfossil deposits, which often reveal birds long-gone that disappeared without ever being recorded by scientists while they lived. From Greak Auks, Carolina Parakeets and Dodos to the amazing yet almost completely vanished bird radiations of Hawaii and New Zealand via rafts of extinction in the Pacific and elsewhere, this book is both a sumptuous reference and astounding testament to humanity's devastating impact on wildlife.
Across the Bridge
Author: Henry Gee
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Our understanding of vertebrate origins and the backbone of human history evolves with each new fossil find and DNA map. Many species have now had their genomes sequenced, and molecular techniques allow genetic inspection of even non-model organisms. But as longtime Nature editor Henry Gee argues in Across the Bridge, despite these giant strides and our deepening understanding of how vertebrates fit into the tree of life, the morphological chasm between vertebrates and invertebrates remains vast and enigmatic. As Gee shows, even as scientific advances have falsified a variety of theories linking these groups, the extant relatives of vertebrates are too few for effective genetic analysis. Moreover, the more we learn about the species that do remain—from sea-squirts to starfish—the clearer it becomes that they are too far evolved along their own courses to be of much use in reconstructing what the latest invertebrate ancestors of vertebrates looked like. Fossils present yet further problems of interpretation. Tracing both the fast-changing science that has helped illuminate the intricacies of vertebrate evolution as well as the limits of that science, Across the Bridge helps us to see how far the field has come in crossing the invertebrate-to-vertebrate divide—and how far we still have to go.
Birds New to Science
Author: David Brewer
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Amazing as it might sound, ornithologists are still discovering several bird species each year that are completely new to science. These aren't all obscure brown birds on tiny islands – witness the bizarre Bare-faced Bulbul from Laos (2009), spectacular Araripe Manakin from Brazil (1998), or gaudy Bugun Liocichla from north-east India (2006). Birds New to Science documents more than half a century of these remarkable discoveries, covering around 300 species. Each account includes the story of discovery, a brief description of the bird (many with accompanying photographs), and details of what is known about its biology, range and conservation status. Written in an engaging style, this is a rich reference to an incredible era of adventure in ornithology.
The Amazon and Orinoco basins in northern South America are home to the highest concentration of freshwater fish species on earth, with more than 3,000 species allotted to 564 genera. Amazonian fishes include piranhas, electric eels, freshwater stingrays, a myriad of beautiful small-bodied tetras and catfishes, and the largest scaled freshwater fish in the world, the pirarucu. Field Guide to the Fishes of the Amazon, Orinoco, and Guianas provides descriptions and identification keys for all the known genera of fishes that inhabit Greater Amazonia, a vast and still mostly remote region of tropical rainforests, seasonally flooded savannas, and meandering lowland rivers. The guide’s contributors include more than fifty expert scientists. They summarize the current state of knowledge on the taxonomy, species richness, and ecology of these fish groups, and provide references to relevant literature for species-level identifications. This richly illustrated guide contains 700 detailed drawings, 190 color photos, and 500 distribution maps, which cover all genera. An extensive and illustrated glossary helps readers with the identification keys. The first complete overview of the fish diversity in the Amazon, Orinoco, and Guianas, this comprehensive guide is essential for anyone interested in the freshwater life inhabiting this part of the world. First complete overview of the fish diversity in the Amazon and Orinoco basins Contributors include more than fifty experts Identification keys and distribution maps for all genera 190 stunning color photos 700 detailed line drawings Extensive and illustrated glossary
Where do turtles hail from? Why and how did they acquire shells? These questions have spurred heated debate and intense research for more than two hundred years. Brilliantly weaving evidence from the latest paleontological discoveries with an accessible, incisive look at different theories of biological evolution and their proponents, Turtles as Hopeful Monsters tells the fascinating evolutionary story of the shelled reptiles. Paleontologist Olivier Rieppel traces the evolution of turtles from over 220 million years ago, examining closely the relationship of turtles to other reptiles and charting the development of the shell. Turtle issues fuel a debate between proponents of gradual evolutionary change and authors favoring change through bursts and leaps of macromutation. The first book-length popular history of its type, this indispensable resource is an engaging read for all those fascinated by this ubiquitous and uniquely shaped reptile.
This book explores the life of Henry Dresser (1838-1915), one of the most productive British ornithologists of the mid-late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and is largely based on unpublished correspondence and diaries. Dresser travelled widely and spent time in Texas during the American Civil War. He built enormous collections of skins and eggs of birds from Europe, North America and Asia, which formed the basis of over 100 publications, including some of the finest bird books of the late nineteenth century. Dresser was a leading figure in scientific society and in the early bird conservation movement; his correspondence and diaries reveal the inner workings, motivations, personal relationships and rivalries that existed among the leading ornithologists. This book is aimed at anyone interested in birds, history and natural history.
No 8 Re-Charged
Author: David Downs, Michelle Dickinson
Publisher: Penguin UK
Take notice, world, New Zealand is undergoing a re-charge. The 'No. 8 wire' thinking we have been so proud of is being expanded and improved. No. 8 Re-charged tells a compelling and accessible story of modern New Zealand and its world-beating products and ideas. From drone technology to electric farm bikes and computer graphics, from space-age umbrellas to fitness trackers and the world's leading DJ software - New Zealand developers, entrepreneurs and companies are winning in areas where no one thought we could even compete. Chapters: 1. Up in the Air - Planes, Drones and Rockets 2. The Human Body - From Hospital Beds to Cancer Breakthroughs 3. Social Innovation - Change, for Good 4. It's all Fun and Games - It's about Serious Fun 5. Of Water and the Sea - Boats, Anchors and Surfboards 6. Machines, Large and Small - Large, loud and Globally Successful 7. Film and Pictures - Screen Stars, Large and Small 8. The Land of the Clouds - Aoraki and Aotearoa 9. Down on the Farm - Robots, Designer Cows and Turtle Tracking 10. Global Fingerprints - From New Zealand to the World
Far from Land
Author: Michael Brooke
Publisher: Princeton University Press
The lives and activities of seabirds as you’ve never seen them before Seabirds evoke the spirit of the earth's wildest places. They spend large portions of their lives at sea, often far from land, and nest on beautiful and remote islands that humans rarely visit. Thanks to the development of increasingly sophisticated and miniaturized devices that can track their every movement and behavior, it is now possible to observe the mysterious lives of these remarkable creatures as never before. This beautifully illustrated book takes you on a breathtaking journey around the globe to reveal where these birds actually go when they roam the sea, the tactics they employ to traverse vast tracts of ocean, the strategies they use to evade threats, and more. Michael Brooke has visited every corner of the world in his lifelong pursuit of seabirds. Here, he draws on his own experiences and insights as well as the latest cutting-edge science to shed light on the elusive seafaring lives of albatrosses, frigatebirds, cormorants, and other ocean wanderers. Where do puffins go in the winter? How deep do penguins dive? From how far away can an albatross spot a fishing vessel worth following for its next meal? Brooke addresses these and other questions in this delightful book. Along the way, he reveals that seabirds are not the aimless wind-tossed creatures they may appear to be and explains the observational innovations that are driving this exciting area of research. Featuring illustrations by renowned artist Bruce Pearson and packed with intriguing facts, Far from Land provides an extraordinary up-close look at the activities of seabirds.