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No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species

No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species by Richard Ellis

ISBN10: 0060558032
ISBN13: 978-0060558031
Author: Richard Ellis
Book title: No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species
Publisher: Harper (August 10, 2004)
Language: English
Category: Biological Sciences
Size PDF: 1998 kb
Size ePub: 1284 kb
Size Fb2: 1850 kb
Rating: 4.1/5
Votes: 924
Pages: 448 pages

No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species by Richard Ellis

Discusses the reasons why specific species have become extinct, providing additional coverage of species that have been rendered extinct more recently and species that have been saved from extinction.


Une étude très documentée et passionnante sur les trop nombreux impacts négatifs de l'Homme sur notre planète. Par delà les extinctions, la place de l'Homme est ainsi remise dans une bien triste perspective.

After reading the review from the raving egotist who gave the book one star simply because Mr. Ellis doesn't think he's as smart as his mom told him he is I thought that I should write one too, but I'll keep it short.
If you are interested in nature, science, etc. and are looking for an engaging, casual book to spend some time with you'll learn a lot from this one.
The book is written for the Average Joe and is in Average Joe language, so if you believe that you're the guy Einstein stole all his ideas from you might find the book too simplistic, but if you're a normal person who likes reading about science the book will keep you entertained.
Oh and watch out for Steve Alten. He's apparently been getting into dad's special Kool-Aid again.

A book explaining the scientific evidence for evolution. It is an easy to understand book for the majority of folks.

No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species (2004) suffers the same problems that has plagued other books written by Ellis: an excessive use of quoting and - at least for cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) - dumb mistakes. The first several chapters deal with extinctions and why they may have occurred. Here Ellis goes in circles, telling you the same theories again and again, often quoting article abstracts (which make me suspect he didn't even bother read much of the articles themselves). In later chapters he tries to cover the plight of as many species as possible, but in the process says almost nothing about certain species or how they really went extinct. When dealing with cetaceans, he apparently forgot what he had even said in earlier works (e.g., he once again forgot that the Dutch whaling settlement of Smeerenburg was settled well before the first overwintering in 1633-34) and doesn't appear to read his sources closely enough (e.g. Ellis believes Omura's whale, only described in 2003, must be very rare because the majority of the paratypes were caught in the East China Sea - where a lot of modern whaling occurred - when in fact they had been taken near the Solomon Islands, where very little modern whaling actually took place). Ellis also has a problem with dates, stating that British bowhead whaling in the Davis Strait region ended around 1860, when it didn't end until several decades later - you would think someone who wrote an entire chapter on this subject in an earlier book (Men & Whales, 1991) would recall this? If he made such silly mistakes on a subject he's published extensively on, imagine all the mistakes he's made throughout the book? That's a little scary to think about. What could've been a very interesting read turned into a struggle to finish. Had I not been reading other books at the time I probably wouldn't have finished it at all. I wouldn't really recommend this book to anyone - unless you want to write an essay on all the mistakes that Ellis probably made, that is.

Note: I received this copy via Netgalley

Ellis looks at the various factors that have contributed and still are to the extinction or the species being threatened. The majority of this book deals with extinction that has occurred in the past and what might transpire (or inevitably will at the rate we are going) in the future. Ellis is able to masterfully bring science to the everyday individual. While some parts are still dry Ellis mixes in a variety of interesting anecdotes and facts from modern things.

One of the key points people should take from this book is just how much of an impact humans have had on bringing forth the extinction of species and moving the process along.

Also: [...]

In "No Turning Back", Richard Ellis conjures these emotions for the sole remaining members of species soon to be extinct, such as the last passenger pigeon or the last Carolina parakeet, which finished out their lives in zoos. It is not the animals themselves who feel the lonely demise of their DNA, their unique genetic make-up, their strings of molecules that are never to be known on the Earth again--Ellis does not anthropomorphize, the animals have no idea that they represent the last of their kind--but humans who have viewed the last of these species and have known that this is it; there will be no more. There is the odd case here and there when a migrating species has been reduced to such a low number that the few remaining individuals--still engaging in their migratory behavior--return to breeding grounds to find that they are all alone. They carry on, though, back and forth through their migratory cycle until they die of natural causes or other events. These few survivors cannot know that they are the last of their kind, but they must know deep in their genes that something is terribly wrong.

It is all very sad, and such a waste.

Ellis spends a great deal of the book discussing recent man-caused extinctions. This testimony is the most disturbing, especially when modern extinction events are dwarfing those massive extinction events that occurred deep in geologic time, extinctions that may have been caused by astronomical events or geologic upheavals; that humans are capable of such destruction. It is all very sobering. Too often, a dying species is known to be on the brink, even by the least educated among us, yet the killing goes on against tigers and elephants and rhinoceros and apes... Ellis works to downplay the notion that an extinct species somehow deserved its extinction, as if its inability to adapt quickly to the rise of Homo sapiens shows that it is inferior in some way.

The book does not just describe human-caused extinctions--Ellis discusses historical extinctions as well, and calls into question some recent theories such as the Cretaceous asteroid impact. How could this event affect only dinosaurs, leaving just about everything else virtually intact, including many fragile species? He applies this question to many of the periodic extinction events, with one sure conclusion: There must have been much more going on than we are aware.

Overall, this is a very informative book; its modern chapters are akin to Douglas Adams' "Last Chance to See" in the wasteful finality of it all, but the book is organized poorly and is difficult to read. Ellis jumps back and forth, from birds to mammals and then back to birds again throughout the book, as if the book were pasted together from remnant articles collected over a period of time (and perhaps this is the case). He mentions the "K-T Extinction...which wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs" so many times that I lost count, and I wondered why he kept bringing it up.

Read the book as a reference resource for extinction events, but be prepared to be at it for a while: the book is very dry.