448 pages, illustrations
Nearly every species that has lived on earth is extinct. The last of the dinosaurs was wiped out after a Mount Everest-sized meteorite slammed into the earth 65 million years ago. The great flying and marine reptiles are no more. Before humans crossed the Bering Land Bridge some 15,000 years ago, North America was populated by mastodons, mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, and cave bears. They too are MIA. The passenger pigeon, once the most numerous bird in North America, is gone forever.
In No Turning Back, renowned naturalist Richard Ellis explores the life and death of animal species, immortalizing creatures that were driven to extinction thousands of years ago and those more recently. He documents those that were brought back from the brink, and most surprisingly, he reveals animals not known to exist until the twentieth century – an antidote to extinction.
"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."
- Publishers Weekly
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