cover image The Miner's Canary: Unraveling the Mysteries of Extinction

The Miner's Canary: Unraveling the Mysteries of Extinction

Eldredge Niles / Author, Niles Eldredge / Author Prentice Hall

Eldredge, curator and chairman of the department of invertebrates at New York City's American Museum of Natural History, surveys the last 670 million years, examining factors that cause extinction without human intervention and, later, the effects of human action. Offering a theory that links the distant past to the present, he observes that most mass extinctions occurred slowly over a very long period (up to five million years); he points out that by the time dinosaurs vanished forever, most of their species had already become extinct. Noting that the move to agriculture signaled the destruction of animal habitats, Eldredge concludes that change of size and location of habitat underlies most instances of extinction, from isolated species disappearances to mass extinction. In the matter of ecosystem degradation, he maintains, it is our existence that is at stake. A stimulating and persuasive argument. Science Book Club and Library of Science Book Club alternates. (Oct.)