The Ghosts Of Evolution
July 8, 2019 9:43 AM - by Connie Barlow - Subscribe

A new vision is sweeping through ecological science: The dense web of dependencies that makes up an ecosystem has gained an added dimension-the dimension of time. Every field, forest, and park is full of living organisms adapted for relationships with creatures that are now extinct. In a vivid narrative, Connie Barlow shows how the idea of "missing partners" in nature evolved from isolated, curious examples into an idea that is transforming how ecologists understand the entire flora and fauna of the Americas. This fascinating book will enrich the experience of any amateur naturalist, as well as teach us that the ripples of biodiversity loss around us are just the leading edge of what may well become perilous cascades of extinction.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (1 comment total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is a fascinating book, written in 2002 about anachronisms in the plant world, and their extinct megafaunal partners. An anachronism is a plant whose animal seed dispersal partner has gone extinct, and must now adapt to a different pattern or go extinct themselves. The degree to which a plant is an anachronism can vary- with some plants basically not caring and other plants almost going totally extinct until human intervention. Think of the avocado- it’s pit is huge- no modern animal in its home range can swallow it whole... but the giant ground sloth could have. The ginkgo tree’s original seed dispersal partner might have been a dinosaur it’s so old. All of this, of course is conjecture- we can never prove or disprove most of what is in this book, though many scientists are laying out very persuasive evidence that anachronisms exist. When you consider that horses, camels and elephants once roamed the Americas- you’ll look at the native plants of the continent and wonder, what ghosts live amongst the trees.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:48 AM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

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