Sunday, December 4, 2016

Wildlife Spectacles, by Vladimir Dinets

Vladimir Dinets is a professional animal watcher.  If you're like me, you don't get to see many animals, except your pets, zoo animals, and the occasional squirrel or raccoon in your neighborhood.  Lucky for us, Dinets has spent his lifetime observing wildlife.  In Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors, Dinets describes a wide variety of animals and their habits.  As a bonus, he tells us where to go to see for ourselves!

A couple of themes show up throughout Wildlife Spectacles.  First, the danger man poses to wildlife and the subsequent impact on animal habitats and populations.  It's a reality that we use lots of land for living and farming.  Without moaning about overpopulation or misanthropy, Dinets simply describes the ways that migration patterns, mating habits and species survival has been impacted.

A more interesting and compelling theme is the interaction between species.  For instance, in North America the passenger pigeon is extinct.  That alone is tragic, but: "Since the passenger pigeon's extinction, tree species they depended on the bird for spreading their seeds, particularly the white oak, have gone into decline."  Who would have predicted this relationship?  Not me.  Similarly, salmon has a huge impact on the forest through which their rivers run.  "Salmon runs transport a significant amount of nutrients from the ocean to the coastal forests." The magnificent forests of the northwest are made possible by salmon sacrificing their lives. 

You might not like bats much, but many of our crops depend on them to eat invasive insects.  A decline in bat populations can impact our food supply.  "Fungus causes a disease called white-noise syndrome, which dan wipe out entire colonies of bats in just one winter. Within a few years it killed eighty percent of bats in the Northeast (causing billions of dollars of damage to agriculture)..."

Dinets emphasizes the interconnectedness of life, as well as the mystery of it.  We think scientists know everything, but much of the natural world is still a mystery.  Dinets talks about the mystery of insect migration.  Sometimes the patterns are very clear, but in some cases, we don't know where they go when they migrate.  So much is unknown.

Wildlife Spectacles is enjoyable on many levels.  Just flip through it and enjoy the gorgeous photography.  Read more closely and be astounded by the miracles of wildlife.  Take it with you on your next road trip to observe the wonderful world of animals first-hand.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

2016 Reading Challenge: A book about the natural world

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