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Until a few thousand years ago, creatures that could have been from a sci-fi thriller – including gorilla-sized lemurs, 800-pound birds, crocodiles that weighed a ton or more – roamed the earth. These great beasts, or "megafauna", lived on every habitable continent and on many islands. With a handful of exceptions, all are now gone.
What caused the disappearance of these prehistoric behemoths? Palaeomammologist Ross D. E. MacPhee explores that question, examining the leading extinction theories, weighing the evidence, and presenting his own conclusions. He shows how theories of human overhunting and catastrophic climate change fail to explain critical features of these extinctions, and how new thinking is needed to elucidate these mysterious losses. He comments on how past extinctions can shed light on future losses, and on the possibility of bringing back extinct species through genetic engineering. Gorgeous four-color illustrations by Peter Schouten bring these megabeasts back to life in vivid detail.
"An informative, up-to-date overview of a fascinating period in Earth's history."
– Science News
"Marvellous [...] brilliantly served by the superb illustrations of Australian artist Peter Schouten [...] A compelling, sometimes demanding and scientifically rigorous detective story."
– Christopher Hart, Sunday Times (UK)
"I've always wanted to meet a glyptodon, or maybe a toxodon, or even a Giant Irish Deer. Why settle for fauna when you can have megafauna made easy? Ross D. E. MacPhee is a fabulous writer. His End of the Megafauna is a spectacularly illustrated and captivating whodunit exploring the greatest of extinction mysteries. A mixture of oddball observations, anecdotes, and true science, with all of those questions you've always wanted to ask an expert – 'Why do species decline?' 'Why do extinctions occur?' 'Is it all our fault?' 'Can we expect no better for ourselves?' Why risk time travel to the Pleistocene when you can read this book? I highly recommend it."
– Errol Morris, author of The Ashtray
"A lively and smart tour of the various theories of why so many large-bodied animals disappeared around 11,700 years ago. Drawing from his decades of personal involvement in the debate, Ross D. E. MacPhee explores the assumptions, arguments, and misconceptions about the roles of humans, a changing climate, and other possible causes for the disappearance of the megafauna. With vivid prose matched by Peter Schouten's equally vivid illustrations, the reader is transported back in time to a world that is both foreign and familiar, and emerges with a better understanding of how our actions as humans impact the world around us."
– Beth Shapiro, author of How to Clone a Mammoth
"Adds thoughtful fuel to a scholarly debate that shows no signs of ending."
"This is a must-read for anyone interested in the subject of animal extinctions, in the present or the past."
– Publishers Weekly
"MacPhee's research, combined with award-winning artist Schouten's illustrations, makes for a book that will fascinate and draw attention to the loss of these interesting and unusual species."