Ellis, a popular American writer and painter on marine natural history, provides a necessarily selective account of how species have gone and are going extinct during the long life of his home planet, both one-by-one and in the great orgies called mass extinctions. He also looks at species today that are either on or have been pulled back from the brink. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
In his latest book, multitalented marine naturalist Ellis (Imagining Atlantis; The Empty Ocean) broadens his attention from life in the oceans to an examination of the process of animal extinction. Readers will be tantalized by brief descriptions of many odd species some extinct, many endangered. They will learn about the 50-foot-long megatooth shark; the 10-foot-tall duck known as Bullockornis, or "the demon duck of doom"; and the tiny leaf deer of southeast Asia, so named "because it was small enough to wrap its body in a single large leaf." Ellis condenses a century of research and postulation into one comprehensive volume of extinction; additionally, he discusses recently discovered species ("The Anti-Extinctions") and offers future extinction-prevention techniques ("Rescuing Animals from Oblivion"). Even with much compelling material, however, the book is not wholly successful. Although Ellis presents some fascinating theories (among them, he casts doubt on Christianity's placement of "humans confidently perched on the top rung" of the animal ladder), the text as a whole fails to develop a focused message, and lacks the intrigue necessary to sustain reader interest throughout. While certainly a home run on information, this volume proves only a single on entertainment. 70 line drawings. Agent, Carl Brandt. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.