256 pages, b/w illustrations
Written by specialists in the field, the papers in Evolution of Desert Biota, originally published in 1976, explore evolution of animals and plants on the deserts of North America, South America, and Australia. Together, the articles constitute a complete survey of the geological history of the deserts of three continents, the evolution of the animals and plants of those deserts, and their adaptations to the environments in which they live.
The first paper, by Otto T. Solbrig, discusses the flora of the South American temperate and semidesert regions, citing numerous genera and reasons that they are found in the different areas. John S. Beard uses the same approach in his discussion of the evolution of Australian desert plants and focuses on western Australian areas. Guillermo Sarmiento appraises the evolution of arid vegetation in tropical America, including the Lesser Antilles and the Coast Range of Venezuela and Colombia. A. R. Main surveys the adaptation of Australian vertebrates to desert conditions and gives examples of how various species of birds, reptiles, and amphibians adapt to their environment in order for the greatest number to survive. James A. MacMahon designates specific communities in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan deserts and discusses the similarity of species of the North American desert mammal faunas found there, while Bobbi S. Low focuses on the evolution of amphibian life histories in the desert and compiles a lengthy table of amphibia comparing egg size, habitat, number of eggs per clutch, and so forth. Finally, W. Frank Blair treats adaptation of anurans to equivalent desert scrub of North and South America and cites various species of frogs and toads that are found in similar areas.
The volume also includes an introduction by the editor and an index. Evolution of Desert Biota is the result of a symposium held during the First International Congress of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology in Boulder, Colorado; in August 1973.
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David W. Goodall was director of the US1IBP Desert Biome Program from its inception until 1973 and is now an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Natural Sciences at Edith Cowan University in Australia.