The landscapes of Madagascar have long delighted zoologists, who have discovered, in and among the island's baobab trees and thickets, a dizzying array of animals, including something approaching one hundred species of lemur. Madagascar's mammal fauna, for example, is far more diverse, and more endemic, than early explorers and naturalists ever dreamed of. But in the 2500 or so years since the arrival of the island's first human settlers, the vast majority of its forests have disappeared, and in the wake of this loss a number of species unique to Madagascar have vanished forever into extinction.
In Extinct Madagascar, noted scientists Steven M. Goodman and William L. Jungers explore the recent past of these land animal extinctions. Beginning with an introduction to the geologic and ecological history of Madagascar that provides context for the evolution, diversification, and, in some cases, rapid decline of the Malagasy fauna, Goodman and Jungers then seek to recapture these extinct mammals in their environs. Aided in their quest by artist Velizar Simeonovski's beautiful and haunting paintings – images of both individual species and ecosystem assemblages reproduced here in full color – Goodman and Jungers reconstruct the lives of these lost animals and trace their relationships to those still living.
Published in conjunction with an exhibition of Simeonovski's paintings set to open at the Field Museum, Chicago, in the fall of 2014, Goodman and Jungers' awe-inspiring book will serve not only as a sobering reminder of the very real threat of extinction, but also as a stunning tribute to Madagascar's biodiversity and a catalyst for further research and conservation.
Steven M. Goodman is the MacArthur Field Biologist at the Field Museum, Chicago, and based in Antananarivo, Madagascar. He is coeditor of The Natural History of Madagascar and Atlas of Selected Land Vertebrates of Madagascar.
William L. Jungers is distinguished teaching professor and chair of anatomical sciences at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.
"[...] For anyone wishing to understand the role of natural climate change and its effects on ecosystems, this book provides an important and conclusive story for Madagascar at least. It also shows the negative effects that humans have had on a native fauna that had evolved in isolation over the last 88 million years."
– Julian P. Hume, Bulletin of the African Bird Club, 23(1), March 2016
"Extinct Madagascar is original; there is no other like it. It is data-rich, fabulously illustrated, and has just enough humor to make it fun to read as well as intellectually stimulating. It is not a review of the anatomy or taxonomy of the various taxa, yet it presents sufficient amounts of detail in this regard to make visualization possible. The book also provides a very nice synthesis of cultural, genetic, and paleontological evidence for human arrival – I think the best out there."
– Laurie Godfrey, University of Massachusetts Amherst
"The extinction (and its causes) of the many subfossil organisms described in Extinct Madagascar is one of biodiversity science's great unsolved mysteries. Goodman and Jungers summarize and present a monumental amount of information pertaining to these species, combining storytelling (descriptive accounts of the scientists involved, of various events and adventures) and marvelous plates with exquisite details of the subfossils and associated metadata to illustrate both the landscape and the organisms of the Holocene epoch in Madagascar. Their literary approach as well as the data reviewed and assembled make for a wonderful addition to the literature. Extinct Madagascar will have broad appeal across disciplines and will be a priceless book for graduate seminar work. I can't wait."
– Anne Yoder, Duke University
"An authoritative and fascinating exploration of one of Nature's greatest evolutionary experiments."
– Ian Tattersall, American Museum of Natural History, author of Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins