The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions Summary & Study Guide

David Quammen
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This section contains 451 words
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The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions Summary & Study Guide Description

The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions by David Quammen.

The Song of the Dodo is David Quammen's journalistic account of the development of the branch of ecology called island biogeography and an examination of how its theories might be applied to modern conservation efforts. Part scientific explanation and part travelogue, Quammen escorts his readers through the sometimes bitter infighting among ecologists and takes them island hopping around the globe to look at real cases of ecosystem decay.

Island biogeography is the study of the distribution of species in island habitats. Islands make useful case studies, Quammen explains, because their isolation and size make it possible to examine the entire system. Looking at what species survive or go extinct and how species evolve and change on islands can provide, in theory, practical information on what a species requires to remain viable into the future.

Quammen traces the origins of island biogeography to the pioneering work by Charles Darwin and the lesser known but equally important Alfred Wallace, both of whom based their theories on research performed on islands. He highlights the major shifts in thinking about evolution and the development of species in the years since Darwin and Wallace and brings the science up to the present day, interviewing several leading ecologists and conservation officials and outlining the major modern lines of thinking about the practical application of ecological theory. It is a field rife with conflicting ideas and Quammen delves into the personalities behind the most contentious areas of the subject.

Islands are not necessarily surrounded by water, Quammen points out. Sections of rainforest can become islands when they are isolated by clear-cutting and river habitats can become islands when damming isolates them from one another. As natural habitat on the mainlands of the world becomes more and more disjointed, Quammen argues, the lessons of survival and extinction taken from islands become globally applicable. One central question that arises pertains to the best design for natural preserve areas and Quammen explains the controversy over whether it is better to create single, large reserves or several smaller reserves.

Interspersed with Quammen's explanations of the scientific theories are his personal accounts of his travels around the world while researching his book. He recounts the hunt for a supposedly extinct species of lemur in Madagascar and the restoration of the nearly extinct kestrels on the island of Mauritius. In the final chapter, he retraces the steps of Alfred Wallace to the South Pacific island of Aru to find the extravagant and rare bird of paradise called the cenderawasih.

Quammen concludes his book on a hopeful note that despite the ever-expanding encroachment of man on the world's natural habitat, a way will be found to preserve the natural diversity of the world's species.

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This section contains 451 words
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