In this fantastic visual voyage, scientist and historian Flannery, in collaboration with internationally acclaimed wildlife artist Schouten, catalogs 104 creatures that have vanished from the face of the earth since 1492.
Reading this wonderful book is both exhilarating and depressing. Fantastic artwork and concise text allow us to learn of many beautiful and bizarre animals. But the reader is always stung with a sense of loss and regret that they have only just missed the opportunity to see the real thing and that all these creatures are lost to us forever, largely because of the near-sighted actions of our own species. Tim Flannery should be well known to most natural science readers and his writing in this book does not disappoint being simple enough for the layperson yet informative. However, this is primarily a showcase for Peter Schouten's fantastic illustrations. I've been a fan of his work since his "Prehistoric Animals of Australia" came out in '83 and I can say that his work in "Gap" is his best yet! My only complaint is the decision to exclude recently extinct amphibians and freshwater fish, both groups have suffered tremendously in recent years.
J. J. Kwashnak
We've often heard about the loss to our world due to extinction. Flannery and Schouten put "faces" to this loss. These 'Ghosts of Species Past' represent just a handful of the things that we have directly or indirectly caused to disappear from the Earth. Many books try to give us an idea of the loss through descriptions and stories. What sets this book above the rest are the illustrations by Schouten. Often working with only skins, parts of the animal, or old drawings, he has created hauntingly beautiful illustrations of what these animals might have looked like were we to see them in their natural habitats. And that is what you will take away from this book, more than just the scope of loss, but the physical beauty and diversity that these animals represent. And that is a shame. Many of these animals were only seen a few times, so the information on them is sketchy, yet Schouten breathes life into these ancient corpses. The book's message will stay with you. Let's hope that we can cut back on contributing to the next volume in the world today.
A Gap in Nature2003/4/3
"A Gap in Nature" is a truly extraordinary book. It gives details of many species that are lost to us forever. The illustrations are beautiful. Each species that is covered has a matching picture, its range, and reasons why it became extinct. The human species is mostly to blame for the loss of many of these creatures with destruction of habitat, over hunting, and introduction of disease and predators. Some of the species like the Dodo bird, the Great Auk, the Passenger Pigeon, and the Carolina Parakeet are well known whereas others are not known. It's very sad in a way. We have been able to save the California Condor and the Whooping Crane, but have probably lost the Dusky Seaside Sparrow, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, and Bachman's Warbler in recent years. This book is excellent, but really only covers the tip of the iceberg when it comes to species we've lost forever.
Buy This Book For The Pictures.2002/3/2
John P. Rooney
"A Gap In Nature" by Tim Flannery and illustrated by Peter Schouten. Sub-titled, "Discovering the World's Extinct Animals." Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001. When my grandchildren visit, they often ask me the classical question of how I can read a book without pictures. Not with this book! The pictures are the chief attraction of "A Gap In Nature". Organized by the Australian writer, Tim Flannery, this book collects in one place a tribute to the many species that have become extinct in the recent past, since the first voyage of Columbus. The artist, Peter Schouten, spent years drawing life-sized portraits for each of the 103 animals, for the beautiful illustrations of this book. Schouten's brilliant, full color illustrations are a delight to look at, and will keep the attention of even a three-year-old boy. My grandson asked, "What's that?" as we turned the pages and then, "Is that a mouse?" when looking at the "Pig-footed Bandicoot" on pages 96-97. No, I found out that the Bandicoot was not a mouse, but rather an Australian marsupial, about "...the size of a kitten". I had never seen such an animal before, and that is the poignant message of this book. The beautiful pictures show animals that no longer exist. The author, Tim Flannery, has previously expounded his thesis that the arrival of humankind heralded the extinction of so many different animals on so many different continents and islands. For example, in his recent book, "The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples", Flannery ascribes the destruction of the mammoths, mastodons and giant sloths to the arrival of the first humans in North America some 13,200 years ago, in what he terms "a megafauna barbecue". In "A Gap In Nature", Dr. Flannery does not have to dwell too deeply on the culpability of humans in this worldwide extinction. It is enough to sit there and sadly turn page after page, picture after picture, of so many beautiful animals, which no longer exist.
This is a small book, under 200 pages with just 103 species shown. We all probably know that this is obviously nowhere near a true representation of the extinct animals that comprise what Flannery calls A GAP IN NATURE. What we see here is merely a small selection of some that have gone extinct in the last few hundred years. It's limited to birds, mammals, and reptiles, and only those that the artist had sufficient descriptions to work with. The illustrations are beautiful and a quick browse through may leave you with a disturbing and lasting impression of just what colorful and variety of species has been lost. Flannery's descriptions are informative, if basic. One of the most noticeable features is the high representation of Island species. The Auckland Island merganser, Chatham Islands fernbird, and the Falkland Islands dog are long gone. So are species in Cuba, Guadeloupe, Hawaii, Jamaica, Labrador Island, Martinique, Seychelles, Swan Island, Tahiti, Tonga and Wake Island. Not yet mentioned is Mauritius which is known for one of the more shameful extinction stories - not the blue pigeon, but the Dodo. The high representation of Island extinctions is not a surprise to persons familiar with the subject of biodiversity. Islands have some of the richest ecosystems on the planet. Unfortunately they are also some of the most vulnerable to both man-made and natural shocks. This book is aimed at non-specialists, those taking introductory college level biology, or persons who are just beginning to be aware of what biodiversity is all about. If that's you and you enjoyed these beautiful illustrations but were saddened by the loss, I would encourage you to follow up by reading THE DIVERSITY OF LIFE by E.O. Wilson or David Quammen's book on Island Biogeography appropriately titled THE SONG OF THE DODO