Evolution of Island Mammals: Adaptation and Extinction of Placental Mammals on Islands

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Evolution on islands differs in a number of important ways from evolution on mainland areas. Over millions of years of isolation, exceptional and sometimes bizarre mammals evolved on islands, such as pig-sized elephants and hippos, giant rats and gorilla-sized lemurs that would have been formidable to their mainland ancestors.

This timely and innovative book is the first to offer a much-needed synthesis of recent advances in the exciting field of the evolution and extinction of fossil insular placental mammals. It provides a comprehensive overview of current knowledge on fossil island mammals worldwide, ranging from the Oligocene to the onset of the Holocene.

The book addresses evolutionary processes and key aspects of insular mammal biology, exemplified by a variety of fossil species. The authors discuss the human factor in past extinction events and loss of insular biodiversity.

This accessible and richly illustrated textbook is written for graduate level students and professional researchers in evolutionary biology, palaeontology, biogeography, zoology, and ecology.

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About the author

ALEXANDRA VAN DER GEER is an independent researcher, presently guest researcher at Naturalis, the National Museum of Natural History of the Netherlands and at the Department of Geology and Geoenvironment at the University of Athens, Greece. She publishes on various subjects, including insularity, primatology and the relation between humans and animals. Among her previous books are Animals in Stone and Hoe dieren op eilanden evolueren.

GEORGE LYRAS is curator of the Museum of Geology and Palaeontology of the University of Athens, Greece. His research focuses primarily on the evolution of carnivores and of insular mammals. He currently specializes in evolutionary processes of the mammalian skull under strong selective forces.

JOHN DE VOS is curator of the Dubois Collection and the Collection of Pleistocene mammal fossils from the Netherlands and the North Sea at Naturalis, the National Museum of Natural History of the Netherlands. His expertise and fi eld of research include the taxonomic, systematic, geographic and stratigraphic research of the Pleistocene mammals of Southeast Asia in relation to fossil humans and fossil island faunas.

MICHAEL DERMITZAKIS is emeritus professor in the Department of Geology and Geoenvironment at the University of Athens, Greece, and former vice-rector of the same university. He is a recognized expert in the fi eld of island biogeography of the Aegean Archipelago and the advocate of international research on the palaeoecology of Greek islands.

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Additional Information

Publisher
John Wiley & Sons
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Published on
Feb 14, 2011
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Pages
496
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ISBN
9781444391282
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Science / Paleontology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids takes us on a journey through 65 million years, from the aftermath of the extinction of the dinosaurs to the glacial climax of the Pleistocene epoch; from the rain forests of the Paleocene and the Eocene, with their lemur-like primates, to the harsh landscape of the Pleistocene Steppes, home to the woolly mammoth. It is also a journey through space, following the migrations of mammal species that evolved on other continents and eventually met to compete or coexist in Cenozoic Europe. Finally, it is a journey through the complexity of mammalian evolution, a review of the changes and adaptations that have allowed mammals to flourish and become the dominant land vertebrates on Earth.

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The multidisciplinary research program at Akrotiri Aetokremnos is important, in my op- ion, for three reasons: two empirical and one conceptual. Quite apart from the archaeology, work at the site is a major contribution to island biogeography, in that the Phanourios sample—certainly the best from Cyprus and probably the best anywhere in the world—has already provided, and will continue to provide, important ecological and behavioral data on these intriguing creatures. Dwarfed island faunas are important to our understanding of the complex factors that shape natural selection in ecologically closed environments over the evolutionary long term. At Aetokremnos, we seem to have the “end” of a long sequence of hippo evolution on the island. With comparative studies of other Cypriot hippo faunas, we should be able to pin down the interval of initial colonization by what were, pres- ably, normal-sized hippos, and—if the other sites can be dated—document the dwarfing process in considerable detail. Aetokremnos would still be a significant paleontological - cality, even in the absence of evidence of a human presence there. While reading the text of the monograph, a number of questions strictly related to the paleontology occurred to me. One was how to model the colonization process. There seems to be little question that the large mammals colonized the island by swimming to it (because, I gather, Cyprus has not been connected to the mainland for roughly 5–6 m- lion years).
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