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How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture
As human populations grow and resources are depleted, agriculture will need to use land, water, and other resources more efficiently and without sacrificing long-term sustainability. Darwinian Agriculture presents an entirely new approach to these challenges, one that draws on the principles of evolution and natural selection.
R. Ford Denison shows how both biotechnology and traditional plant breeding can use Darwinian insights to identify promising routes for crop genetic improvement and avoid costly dead ends. Denison explains why plant traits that have been genetically optimized by individual selection--such as photosynthesis and drought tolerance--are bad candidates for genetic improvement. Traits like plant height and leaf angle, which determine the collective performance of plant communities, offer more room for improvement. Agriculturalists can also benefit from more sophisticated comparisons among natural communities and from the study of wild species in the landscapes where they evolved.
Darwinian Agriculture reveals why it is sometimes better to slow or even reverse evolutionary trends when they are inconsistent with our present goals, and how we can glean new ideas from natural selection's marvelous innovations in wild species.
The Animal Answer Guide
Think of deer and the image that pops into most American's minds is that of a white-tailed deer, the most common large mammal in North America. Most Europeans are more familiar with red deer. It may surprise many people to know that there are actually about 50 species of deer found throughout the world. Here, readers will find nontechnical, expert information about the wide range of diverse deer species. Did you know that elk and caribou are deer? Or that the earliest fossils of deer are 15 to 20 million years old? Have you ever wondered whether deer swim, play, or see color? How do deer avoid predators and survive the winter? Do deer make good pets or carry contagious diseases? George A. Feldhamer and William J. McShea answer these and other intriguing questions about members of the deer family Cervidae. From the diminutive pudu of South America that weighs 17 pounds to male moose that weigh close to 2,000 pounds, Feldhamer and McShea explore the biology, evolution, ecology, feeding habits, reproduction, and behavior of deer. They chronicle the relationships between humans and deer—both positive and negative—and discuss the challenges of deer conservation and management. With vivid color photographs and an accessible and engaging question-and-answer format, this easy-to-read book is the go-to resource on deer. Nature lovers, hunters, and anyone curious about deer will find this fact-filled book both fascinating and full of surprises.
A Natural History
Behold the cormorant: silent, still, cruciform, and brooding; flashing, soaring, quick as a snake. Evolution has crafted the only creature on Earth that can migrate the length of a continent, dive and hunt deep underwater, perch comfortably on a branch or a wire, walk on land, climb up cliff faces, feed on thousands of different species, and live beside both fresh and salt water in a vast global range of temperatures and altitudes, often in close proximity to man. Long a symbol of gluttony, greed, bad luck, and evil, the cormorant has led a troubled existence in human history, myth, and literature. The birds have been prized as a source of mineral wealth in Peru, hunted to extinction in the Arctic, trained by the Japanese to catch fish, demonized by Milton in Paradise Lost, and reviled, despised, and exterminated by sport and commercial fishermen from Israel to Indianapolis, Toronto to Tierra del Fuego. In The Devil's Cormorant, Richard King takes us back in time and around the world to show us the history, nature, ecology, and economy of the world's most misunderstood waterfowl.
Does your dog know when you've had a bad day? Can your cat tell that the coffee pot you left on might start a fire? Could a chimpanzee be trained to program your computer? In this provocative book, noted animal expert Clive Wynne debunks some commonly held notions about our furry friends. It may be romantic to ascribe human qualities to critters, he argues, but it's not very realistic. While animals are by no means dumb, they don't think the same way we do. Contrary to what many popular television shows would have us believe, animals have neither the "theory-of-mind" capabilities that humans have (that is, they are not conscious of what others are thinking) nor the capacity for higher-level reasoning. So, in Wynne's view, when Fido greets your arrival by nudging your leg, he's more apt to be asking for dinner than commiserating with your job stress.
That's not to say that animals don't possess remarkable abilities--and Do Animals Think? explores countless examples: there's the honeybee, which not only remembers where it found food but communicates this information to its hivemates through an elaborate dance. And how about the sonar-guided bat, which locates flying insects in the dark of night and devours lunch on the wing?
Engagingly written, Do Animals Think? takes aim at the work of such renowned animal rights advocates as Peter Singer and Jane Goodall for falsely humanizing animals. Far from impoverishing our view of the animal kingdom, however, it underscores how the world is richer for having such a diversity of minds--be they of the animal or human variety.
A Natural History
The Dodo and the Solitaire is the most comprehensive book to date about these two famously extinct birds. It contains all the known contemporary accounts and illustrations of the dodo and solitaire, covering their history after extinction and discussing their ecology, classification, phylogenetic placement, and evolution. Both birds were large and flightless and lived on inhabited islands some 500 miles east of Madagascar. The first recorded descriptions of the dodo were provided by Dutch sailors who first encountered them in 1598—within 100 years, the dodo was extinct. So quickly did the bird disappear that there is insufficient evidence to form an entirely accurate picture of its appearance and ecology, and the absence has led to much speculation. The story of the dodo, like that of the solitaire, has been pieced together from fragments, both literary and physical, that have been carefully compiled and examined in this extraordinary volume.
Symbol of Ecological Conflict
This is the story of the survival, recovery, astonishing success, and controversial status of the double-crested cormorant. After surviving near extinction driven by DDT and other contaminants from the 1940s through the early 1970s, the cormorant has made an unprecedented comeback from mere dozens to a population in the millions, bringing the bird again into direct conflict with humans. Hated for its colonial nesting behavior; the changes it brings to landscapes; and especially its competition with commercial and sports fishers, fisheries, and fish farmers throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi Delta regions, the cormorant continues to be persecuted by various means, including the shotgun. In The Double-Crested Cormorant, Dennis Wild brings together the biological, social, legal, and international aspects of the cormorant's world to give a complete and balanced view of one of the Great Lakes' and perhaps North America's most misunderstood species. In addition to taking a detailed look at the complex natural history of the cormorant, the book explores the implications of congressional acts and international treaties, the workings and philosophies of state and federal wildlife agencies, the unrelenting efforts of aquaculture and fishing interests to "cull" cormorant numbers to "acceptable" levels, and the reactions and visions of conservation groups. Wild examines both popular preconceptions about cormorants (what kinds of fish they eat and how much) and the effectiveness of ongoing efforts to control the cormorant population. Finally, the book delves into the question of climate and terrain changes, their consequences for cormorants, the new territories to which the birds must adapt, and the conflicts this species is likely to face going forward.
The life cycles of fishes are complex and varied, and knowledge of the early life stages is important for understanding the biology, ecology, and evolution of fishes. In Early Life History of Marine Fishes, Bruce S. Miller and Arthur W. Kendall Jr., bring together in a single reference much of the research available and its application to fishery science—knowledge increasingly important because for most fishes, adult populations are determined at the earliest stages of life. Clear and well written, this book offers expert guidance on how to collect and analyze larval fish data and on how this information is interpreted by applied fish biologists and fisheries managers.
For more than a century, scientists have returned time and again to the issue of modern human emergence-the when and where of the evolutionary process and the human behavioral and biological dynamics involved. The 2003 discovery of a human partial skeleton at Tianyuandong (Tianyuan Cave) excited worldwide interest. The first human skeleton from the region to be directly radiocarbon-dated (to 40,000 years before present), its geological age places it close to the time period during which modern humans became permanently established across the Old World (between 50,000 and 35,000 years ago). Through detailed description and interpretation of the most complete early modern human skeleton from eastern Asia, The Early Modern Human from Tianyan Cave, China, addresses long-term questions about the ancestry of modern humans in eastern Asia and the nature of the changes in human behavior with the emergence of modern human biology. This book is a detailed, paleontological and paleobiological presentation of this skeleton, its context, and its implications. By providing basic information for this important human fossil, offering inferences concerning the population processes involved in modern human emergence in eastern Eurasia, and by raising questions concerning the adaptations of these early modern human hunter-gatherers, The Early Modern Human from Tianyuan Cave, China will take its place as a core contribution to the study of modern human emergence.
This book provides a first synthetic view of an emerging area of ecology and biogeography, linking individual- and population-level processes to geographic distributions and biodiversity patterns. Problems in evolutionary ecology, macroecology, and biogeography are illuminated by this integrative view. The book focuses on correlative approaches known as ecological niche modeling, species distribution modeling, or habitat suitability modeling, which use associations between known occurrences of species and environmental variables to identify environmental conditions under which populations can be maintained. The spatial distribution of environments suitable for the species can then be estimated: a potential distribution for the species. This approach has broad applicability to ecology, evolution, biogeography, and conservation biology, as well as to understanding the geographic potential of invasive species and infectious diseases, and the biological implications of climate change.
The authors lay out conceptual foundations and general principles for understanding and interpreting species distributions with respect to geography and environment. Focus is on development of niche models. While serving as a guide for students and researchers, the book also provides a theoretical framework to support future progress in the field.
Ask airline passengers what they see as they gaze out the window, and they will describe a fragmented landscape: a patchwork of desert, woodlands, farmlands, and developed neighborhoods. Once-contiguous forests are now subdivided; tallgrass prairies that extended for thousands of miles are now crisscrossed by highways and byways. Whether the result of naturally occurring environmental changes or the product of seemingly unchecked human development, fractured lands significantly impact the planet’s biological diversity. In Ecology of Fragmented Landscapes, Sharon K. Collinge defines fragmentation, explains its various causes, and suggests ways that we can put our lands back together. Researchers have been studying the ecological effects of dismantling nature for decades. In this book, Collinge evaluates this body of research, expertly synthesizing all that is known about the ecology of fragmented landscapes. Expanding on the traditional coverage of this topic, Collinge also discusses disease ecology, restoration, conservation, and planning. Not since Richard T. T. Forman's classic Land Mosaics has there been a more comprehensive examination of landscape fragmentation. Ecology of Fragmented Landscapes is critical reading for ecologists, conservation biologists, and students alike.