Taylor, P. Ed. 2004. Extinctions in the history of life. - Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
As a palaeontologist, I study species that are no longer there; at a certain point in time they went extinct. Frankly, I never gave the matter much thought, unless the disappearance may be linked to some ecological change. In a way, this is strange. Death is part of life, extinction is part of evolution. But sometimes the simplest of truths need to be pointed out to you. Reading “Extinctions in the history of life” certainly worked as an eye-opener.
The book is an offshoot of a symposium on extinctions held at the University of California, Los Angeles. It is aimed at the undergraduate student to point out the current debates on extinctions and their importance for the development of life on earth. At the same time, it provides an overview for anybody interested in the subject. In order to fulfill these objectives, a book needs to be written in an accessible style, and at the same time provide ample background information. Particularly readability is a challenge if you take six different scientists, each of which contributes a chapter on their own specialty. I was pleasantly surprised to find that each chapter provided light and yet highly informative reading. At the end of each chapter, a short list for further reading was given, next to the usual reference list. It is the type of book you would recommend to any student, wishing you had had more of those in your own student days. Read more...