South Sea Islands: A Natural History

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9781552976098: South Sea Islands: A Natural History
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The fascinating truth behind paradise.

This beautiful and absorbing book is a celebration of the history and exotic ecosystems of the South Seas Islands: Easter Island, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Madagascar, French Polynesia, Galapagos, Komodo, Sulawesi, New Guinea, Tasmania, Lord Howe, Phillip, and New Caledonia.

Today, these islands exist in isolation and act as real-time laboratories where lifeforms adapt and change to survive in various circumstances. The islands are home to astonishing wildlife such as the Komodo dragon, Tasmanian devil, and predator marsupials.

The book features the human follies and accidents that caused devastating ecological disasters on some islands and records the dramatic measures used to recover and repopulate the islands that were long considered ecologically lost.

Spectacular color photography captures the stunning vistas and natural beauty of these unique islands. Images include pristine rainforests, striking wildlife, exotic reptiles and insects such as an eight inch centipede, brilliant flowers, the ancient quarries of Easter Island where its colossal statues were produced and many more.

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About the Author:

Rod Morris is a wildlife photographer and award-winning documentary producer.

Alison Balance is a natural history writer and filmmaker.

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Introduction

"... from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful... evolved"
Charles Darwin

Roll up, roll up, to the Greatest Circus Sideshow on Earth. Discover magical worlds of dwarves and giants, where casts of astonishing creatures shrink and grow and morph into unexpected and bizarre shapes and forms. Marvel at topsy-turvy worlds, where harmless lizards are transformed into fearsome killers, where kangaroos live in trees and birds become earth-bound.

These may sound like fanciful words from a nineteenth century circus poster but such worlds aren't imaginary works of fantasy and fiction. They are very real and are the result of a very special kind of magic -- the magic of islands. Islands have the power to change life itself, to mold species into something entirely new. Island species can lead an Alice-in-Wonderland existence: in New Zealand a tiny fern turns into a mighty forest giant, while in Sulawesi a massive buffalo shrinks to the size of a small goat, as has happened with the anoa. On the same island the giant civet, a predator, now prefers to ear fruit, while in Hawaii small leaf-eating caterpillars have become voracious killers.

Islands excel at the creation of dwarf species. The tiniest vertebrates in the world are two minuscule lizards, one of which is just slightly more than half an inch (16 millimeters) long and is a very newly discovered species that shares its West Indies island home with the world's smallest frog and smallest bird.

Island magic is equally capable of creating giants. On Komodo Island a lizard has become a mighty dragon, and on the Galapagos Islands tortoises are among the animals that have grown in size almost beyond belief. In New Zealand a cricket has become an enormous nocturnal "demon," the heaviest insect in the world, and the weightiest parrot of all smells like musty freesia flowers and lurks in the shadows of the night forest.

Although continents are also home to weird and wonderful species, islands have far more than their fair share. The wealth and diversity of life on islands can be unexpected if you look only at the prosaic dictionary definition of what an island is: "A piece of land surrounded by water." What truly defines island life is much more intangible than that -- it is the processes that create themes and patterns, what we like to call "magic."

We were brought up near the northern tip of New Zealand's North Island. The sub-tropical worlds of our childhood were colored by the red flowers of the Metrosideros, pohutukawa, and the yellow Sophora, known as kowhai. Our familiar songbirds were honeyeaters such as the tui and bellbird, and much of the landscape was strewn with the distinctive shapes of volcanic cones. To some it may seem an extraordinarily exotic world, but to us it seemed very ordinary. because we had never known anything different. We dreamed of visiting exotic Pacific islands without realizing we were already living on one.

We are natural historians and filmmakers, working for the documentary company Natural History New Zealand. Like us, it was born in New Zealand, and like us it has been shaped by place and geography. It's a southerner, based in the temperate city of Dunedin, near the southern tip of the South Island. Dunedin's wildlife neighbors were the subject of the company's first films -- penguins, sea lions, the giant rail takahe and the giant flightless kakapo.

It wasn't until we left home to work in other parts of the world that we really began to appreciate how biologically unique New Zealand is, and how it stands apart from the rest of the world yet is connected to it. To this day we are inspired every time we set foot on a new island or revisit an old and treasured friend here in New Zealand. In this book we want to share the splendor and joy of life on islands. We hope it will tempt you to experience the real thing or look at a familiar place in a different light, and lead to a new appreciation of the magic and wonder of islands.

Alison Ballance
Rod Morris

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Book Description Firefly Books, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. The fascinating truth behind paradise. This beautiful and absorbing book is a celebration of the history and exotic ecosystems of the South Seas Islands: Easter Island, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Madagascar, French Polynesia, Galapagos, Komodo, Sulawesi, New Guinea, Tasmania, Lord Howe, Phillip, and New Caledonia. Today, these islands exist in isolation and act as real-time laboratories where lifeforms adapt and change to survive in various circumstances. The islands are home to astonishing wildlife such as the Komodo dragon, Tasmanian devil, and predator marsupials. The book features the human follies and accidents that caused devastating ecological disasters on some islands and records the dramatic measures used to recover and repopulate the islands that were long considered ecologically lost. Spectacular color photography captures the stunning vistas and natural beauty of these unique islands. Images include pristine rainforests, striking wildlife, exotic reptiles and insects such as an eight inch centipede, brilliant flowers, the ancient quarries of Easter Island where its colossal statues were produced and many more. Rod Morris is a wildlife photographer and award-winning documentary producer. Alison Balance is a natural history writer and filmmaker. Oblong. Seller Inventory # 12306

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