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Aumentar la imagen. In the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould, H. Shugart entertains and enlightens with parables from the amazing world of birds and mammals Although people have been altering earth's landscapes to some extent for tens of thousands of years, humankind today is causing massive changes to the planet. Such widespread environmental change is accompanied by accelerating rates of species extinction. In this book, noted ecologist H. Shugart presents important ecological concepts through entertaining animal parables.

He tells the stories of particular birds and mammals-the packrat, ivory-billed woodpecker, penguin, dingo, European rabbit, and others-and what their fates reveal about the interactions between environmental change and the extinctions or explosions of species populations. Change is the root of many planetary problems, but it is also an intrinsic feature of our living planet.

Shugart explores past environmental change, discusses the non-existence of a "balance of Nature," and documents how human alterations have affected plants, soils, and animals. He looks with hope toward a future in which thoughtful people learn-and use-ecological science to protect the landscapes upon which terrestrial creatures depend.

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All books are shipped in New condition promptly, we are happy to accept returns up to 30 days from purchase. How could he know? By viewing large numbers of a bird that he had never seen until the day before, but that he immediately recognized. The birds were penguins. The rockhopper penguin Eudyptes chrysocome of the Southern Hemisphere.

From R. Lydekker, The New Natural History, vol. The seventeen living species are all birds of the Southern Hemisphere, as were the thirty-two known species of extinct penguins. Their legs are toward the rear tip of their torpedo-like bodies, an adaptation to an aquatic life. This strongly posterior leg position makes the birds totter when they walk. The ability of the animals to swim gracefully 26 The Black-Headed Bird Named Whitehead at surprising speeds makes them popular displays at large public aquariums. Pen is Welsh for head, and gwyn means white.

How the Earthquake Bird Got Its Name and Other Tales of an Unbalanced Nature

Some penguins have crests, eye decorations, and what might be described as bad haircuts. While certain species of penguins may have some white on their heads, no penguins have white heads. They are not named for their appearance at all; they are named after an island, a place far from where they are found. It was a major breeding site for the now-extinct great auk, a black-backed and white-bellied diving bird slightly over 2 feet 70 cm long.

The island remains a major nesting ground for smaller auks and related birds.

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Great auks were found on White Head, or Penguin Island, in large numbers in the sixteenth century, when the island was given its name. On account of their rocky home, great auks Figure 9 were called penguins long before Europeans misnamed the similar-looking but unrelated bird of the far southern oceans. In a sense, the great auk is still called a penguin, as indicated by its genus name, Pinguinus. The penguins of the Antarctic and southern seas were named for their resemblance to the auks of the North Atlantic, which were familiar to early explorers and sailors.

The other involves knowing the internal interactions that structure ecosystems. On January 7, , Banks recorded his initial sighting of penguins 28 The Black-Headed Bird Named Whitehead and noted that they looked and behaved like Alca pica the razorbill , one of several species of black-and-white auks found in the North Atlantic ocean. In convergence, unrelated species in different ecosystems are strikingly similar in appearance and function.

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Ecological convergence explains why the black-headed penguins were given the name of similar-looking black-headed birds that lived on a promontory of the faraway island called White Head. However, they could not measure longitude to determine their east or west position.

Banks saw the presence of penguins, along with whales and albatrosses, as possible evidence that HMS Endeavour was beyond its Falkland Islands landfall and was sailing into the perilous Southern Ocean. This association of a species or set of species with a particular array of environmental conditions is directly related to the ecological niche as it was initially conceived. We can presume that human societies deep in prehistory valued individuals who could utilize such knowledge. Today, certain people have an uncanny ability to locate individual animals of a rare species, even though the total numbers are small and the area to be searched is large.

This ability, often a product of years of experience, is the mark of a successful hunter, naturalist guide, herb collector, or angler. The California thrasher Toxostoma redivivum , found in chaparral vegetation of that state, is one of several relatively similar and closely related birds that occupy different habitat types in the natural land- The Black-Headed Bird Named Whitehead 29 scapes of California. Understanding the niche of an animal species would allow prediction of its potential geographic distribution.


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In applied ecology, the inverse—called the indicator species—is to use the presence of a species to diagnose environmental conditions. Niche is concerned with what determines the geographic range of a species; habitat involves the setting where a species is usually located inside its geographic range. We are in an era of large-scale alterations to landscapes and the envi- 30 The Black-Headed Bird Named Whitehead ronment. Prediction of the species that might be disadvantaged by these changes would be invaluable in managing the biotic diversity of the planet.

It is not as easy as it initially appears to identify irrefutably the factors that control the distribution of a given species. Unfortunately, many factors might affect any given animal and it would take many experiments to identify those that are important. Also, with the numerous kinds of plants and animals, it seems impossible to determine what factors control their geographic distributions without conducting experiments on them all.

Scale is a crucial concept for understanding ecological systems.

While its treatment can take on almost mystic proportions in some theoretical analyses, the concept is not foreign to everyday experience. The same question to a friend in town would involve streets and turns after familiar landmarks. The time and space scales of observations can complicate determination of the factors controlling distribution of plants and animals.

Because of the thickened texture of the leaves, it is commonly called leatherleaf. The plant occurs only in Jefferson County, Missouri. There it is found in glades—rocky barrens that occur where there are outcroppings of dolomite on the drier south-facing and west-facing slopes of otherwise wooded ridges. Some 1. There are about , individuals to a subregion. The leatherleaf populations of these sites contain about 30, individuals.

Typically, these colonies have roughly 1, individuals. These aggregations comprise small populations of around plants. Leatherleaf is not randomly distributed. At almost any level of resolution, it occurs in clumps. Within these clumps are smaller clumps.

When we compare the appearance of plants from different spatial levels, we see regular differences among the leatherleaf plants from the different-sized clumps. Five maps showing increasingly greater detail of the range of a small flower, Clematis fremontii, in Missouri. The factors that predict distribution of the species at the regional level could be quite different from the predictive factors at a local level.

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Erickson, The Clematis fremontii var. With permission of the Missouri Botanical Garden. What causes clumps in the distribution of leatherleaf? From the regional level, the answer would be the presence of rocky, dolomitic outcroppings.

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How the earthquake bird got its name and other tales of an unbalanced…

If we consider the plants in a single glade, all the area is on dolomite outcroppings and the clumping in the glade must be caused The Black-Headed Bird Named Whitehead 33 by something else. The environmental factors that best predict the pattern of the species at one level are not necessarily those that predict the species at another level. Scale too has a role in predicting where a species will be found. The challenge is in execution of the theory. Two ecologists studying the very same leatherleaf plant at different space scales in Missouri could arrive at quite different factors controlling the distribution of the species.

We are not likely ever to have data from multiple studies at multiple scales for the diverse species of plants and animals on our planet. In a practical sense, our predictions of the occurrence of a species from niche studies will have a level of uncertainty—no matter how much effort we focus on the problem.