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The Amber Forest: A Reconstruction of a Vanished World

Out of Print

By: George Poinar and Roberta Poinar

239 pages, 130 col plates, 190 b/w illus, 28 line illus

Princeton University Press

Paperback | Dec 2001 | #121437 | ISBN: 0691057281
Out of Print Details
Hardback | Dec 1999 | #94314 | ISBN: 0691028885
Out of Print Details

About this book

The authors are authorities on amber fossils and have spent years examining the uniquely rich supply that has survived from the ancient forests of the Dominican Republic. They draw on their research to reconstruct in words, drawings and spectacular color photographs the ecosystem that existed on the island of Hispaniola between fifteen and forty-five million years ago. The result is the most accurate picture scientists have yet produced of any tropical forest of the past.

[The Poinars] have adroitly used the evidence provided by many small, fossilized objects to piece together a picture of the forest. Their specimens, trapped during life in resin from the forest's dominant algarrobo trees, are preserved in exquisite detail. They buttress their tale with an abundance of riveting photographs of denizens of that ancient forest. Scientific American Conventional paleontologists know dinosaurs and clams far better than they know caterpillars and fleas. The glorious thing about amber [is that it] does gentle justice to bees, wasps, spiders, ants and other fragile, important beings... The results can be so beautiful, so lapidary yet revealing, that amber science might be thought of as the field where paleontology crosses paths with jewelry... [An] amazing jewel box... The most intriguing aspect of the book, though, is not its stop-motion portraits of the little things that ran the ancient world, but the questions it raises about what became of them. -- David Quammen The New York Times Book Review Animal behavior is the high point of The Amber Forest... Since ants, bees, termites and ticks in these fossils are almost always close relations of organisms alive today, the Poinars are able to say a great deal about the ecology of the long-vanished forest itself. -- Jonathan Beard New Scientist [The authors'] descriptions of the interactions among the ancient biota are captivating. The text is richly complemented by 190 photographs and drawings by the authors, many depicting insects frozen in time. Publishers Weekly The authors have studied Dominican amber for many years, and their photographs and detailed drawings illuminate this fascinating summary of the forest's biota and paleoecology. Science The Poinars create for the reader a strangely realistic sense of what it is like to be one millimeter long and living in a forest of litter... This is classic natural history writing... with wonderful illustrations, including a section of color plates. Choice The Amber Forest reconstructs [a] 20 million-year-old ecosystem... With more than 200 photographs (most of them in colour) the authors walk the reader through this ancient rainforest... -- S. Blair Hedges Nature The great strength of The Amber Forest lies in revealing and explaining the intimate moments in the lives of long-vanished tiny creatures... The reader is constantly drawn to the tiny, the enigmatic, and the unexplained in these rich pages... Even a reader barely interested in the wonder of lost worlds can hardly fail to be moved by such images. -- Tim Flannery The New York Review of Books The Poinars are world leaders in the study of amber; their expertise and enthusiasm for amber are evident throughout the book. While very detailed, it is well written and a pleasure to read. The language is clear and scientific concepts are thoroughly explained so that all audiences can enjoy the book. -- Sara Lubkin American Paleontologist With more than 200 photographs ... the authors walk the reader through this ancient rainforest, describing a multitude of ecological interactions. -- S. Blair Hedges Nature The Amber Forest is a fine example of how growing numbers of professionals are making detailed scientific subjects interesting and understandable to lay readers. [It] reads like a novel and brings paleoentomolgy to life. -- Steve Voynick Rock & Gem The Amber Forest is a stunning book that should appeal to anyone with an interest in entomology, paleobiology, or the ecology of past and present tropical forests. Science Books and Films


Preface i Acknowledgments xi Prologue xiii 1. Introduction 3 From Where and Whence 3 Why Select Amber for Study? 8 How Biased Are Amber Samples? 9 Structure of Tropical Forests 11 2. The Amber Forest 13 The Plants 13 Plant-Feeding Insects 46 Aquatic Biota 87 Social Insects 97 Predators 129 Parasites and parasitoids 133 Vertebrates 153 3. Reconstruction of the Amber Forest169 General Conclusions 188 4. Amber Today 189 Handling, Photographing, and Preserving Amber 189 Amber Imitations and Forgeries 191 Tissue Preservation and Ancient DNA in Amber 193 Appendix A. Frequency of Organisms in Dominican Amber 197 Appendix B. Biota. in Dominican Amber 199 Chapter References 215 Index 229

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George Poinar, Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently on the faculty at Oregon State University, where he conducts research on amber deposits and biological inclusions in amber. He has written several books on amber, including, with Roberta Poinar. The Quest for Life in Amber. Roberta Poinar is an electron microscopist with experience in entomology and amber research. She and George Poinar led the international research effort to extract DNA from insects encased in amber.

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