The Galapagos: A Natural History

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9780465035977: The Galapagos: A Natural History
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Charles Darwin called it "a little world within itself." Sailors referred to it as "Las Encantadas"-- the enchanted islands. Lying in the eastern Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator off the west coast of South America, the Galapagos is the most pristine archipelago to be found anywhere in the tropics. It is so remote, so untouched, that the act of wading ashore can make you feel like you are the first to do so.

Yet the Galapagos is far more than a wild paradise on earth--it is one of the most important sites in the history of science. Home to over 4,000 species native to its shores, around 40 percent of them endemic, the islands have often been called a "laboratory of evolution." The finches collected on the Galapagos inspired Darwin's revolutionary theory of natural selection.

In The Galapagos, science writer Henry Nicholls offers a lively natural and human history of the archipelago, charting its course from deserted wilderness to biological testing ground and global ecotourism hot spot. Describing the island chain's fiery geological origins as well as our species' long history of interaction with the islands, he draws vivid portraits of the life forms found in the Galapagos, capturing its awe-inspiring landscapes, understated flora, and stunning wildlife. Nicholls also reveals the immense challenges facing the islands, which must continually balance conservation and everencroaching development.

Beautifully weaving together natural history, evolutionary theory, and his own experience on the islands, Nicholls shows that the story of the Galapagos is not merely an isolated concern, but reflects the future of our species' relationship with nature--and the fate of our planet.

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Review:

"Anyone planning or just dreaming of a trip to the famed islands will get a preview of their natural history in this engaging volume."--Science News

"A fascinating overview of the natural and human history of this remarkable archipelago, from prehistoric times to the present."--Kirkus Reviews

"Henry Nicholls has turned his most observant eye on the remarkable, but less often described human history of Galapagos.... In his lively prose, Henry lauds the unsung scientists and conservation managers who work doggedly and successfully on persistent wildlife management challenges wrought by human accident or design. His persistent focus on stewardship--man's absolute responsibility to nature--is refreshing and important in the world of natural history literature. A thoughtfully executed and excellent read."--Johannah Barry, president of the Galapagos Conservancy

"Nicholls describes the natural life of the Galapagos with both knowledge and zest: its rocks, the ocean and the sea life that surround it.... The book is a fascinating portrait of the archipelago's natural and human history." --Chicago Tribune

"The Galpagos: A Natural History is a book that should be on the reading table of all those interested not only in the natural history of the Galapagos Islands but by everyone who wishes to expand their perspective upon the subject of natural history itself--as well as, of course--those who simply enjoy reading interesting and well-written books in general."--The Well-Read Naturalist

"If you read one book about the Galapagos, make sure it is this. Thoroughly researched, highly informative, lively, and enjoyable, each page is a real pleasure to read. Whether a first time visitor or an old Galapagos 'hand, ' Henry Nicholls's The Galapagos should accompany you on any physical or virtual trip to these Enchanted Islands."--Ian Dunn, chief executive officer, Galapagos Conservation Trust

"The Galapagos is an engaging, informative introduction to the natural history of the archipelago.... A surprising amount of information is packed into this concise and entertaining overview. An inspiring pre-travel read for anyone considering a visit to 'Darwin's Islands'."--K. Thalia Grant and Gregory B. Estes, authors of Darwin in Galapagos

"In his new natural history, Henry Nicholls transforms the Galapagos archipelago from perennial example to subject. Chapters devoted to geology, plants, animals, and insects finally provide a landscape framework for some of biology's most famous stories--from Darwin's finches to the giant tortoises that give the islands their name. Nicholls also includes a welcome and thoughtful discussion of the archipelago's most recent and transformative arrivals, its people."--Thor Hanson, author of Seeds and Feathers

"Mr. Nicholls, entertaining in his own light, keeps things lively with lots of human observations.... As protective as Mr. Nicholls is of these strange islands, the reader gets the distinct feeling that he wants you to see for yourself these animals that 'show no prejudice, no fear'--an experience that will do no less than transform the way we think about our place in the world."--New York Times


"In this natural and human history of Darwin's living laboratory, Henry Nicholls surfs from geology, oceanography and marine biology to resident land species, not least the burgeoning population of Homo sapiens. Throughout, he intertwines key accounts such as Darwin's inspired musings on geological uplift and the piscine encounters of pioneer diver William Beebe. One for the scientific islomane with a sense of the bigger picture."--Nature

Book Description:

The extraordinary islands that gave the world Darwin's theory of evolution

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