Nature's Giants: The Biology and Evolution of the World's Largest Lifeforms (Hardcover)
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A beautifully illustrated exploration of the science behind the awe-inspiring giants of past and present
The colossal plants and animals of our world—dinosaurs, whales, and even trees—are a source of unending fascination, and their sheer scale can be truly impressive. Size is integral to the way that organisms experience the world: a puddle that a human being would step over without thinking is an entire world to thousands of microscopic rotifers. But why are creatures the size that they are? Why aren’t bugs the size of elephants, or whales the size of goldfish?
In this lavishly illustrated new book, biologist Graeme Ruxton explains how and why nature’s giants came to be so big—for example, how decreased oxygen levels limited the size of insects and how island isolation allowed small-bodied animals to evolve larger body sizes. Through a diverse array of examples, from huge butterflies to giant squid, Ruxton explores the physics, biology, and evolutionary drivers behind organism size, showing what it’s like to live large.
About the Author
Graeme D. Ruxton is professor of biology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Norman Owen-Smith is Emeritus Research Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa.
"Packed with glossy photos of stomping dinosaurs, belly-flopping whales, colossal squid and even prodigious pumpkins. Both fossils and modern species fill the gallery of giants, and while some gargantuan species are extinct, Mr. Ruxton has created a menagerie of modern organisms that will make any reader do a double-take."—Riley Black, Wall Street Journal
For its clear explanations, striking pictures, and breadth of coverage, this book is recommended for general readers."—Booklist, Starred Review
"A brilliant yet approachable primer. . . . Ruxton should be commended for his nods to the impacts that humans have had and continue to have on many of these animals, with a (perhaps overly optimistic) hopeful look to a more harmonious future."—William Gearty, Quarterly Review of Biology
“We are dwarfed by many animals, from the blue whale to the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. Size poses its own physical challenges as expertly explained by Graeme Ruxton in a book chock-full of fun facts about the biggest animals and the reasons for their success or failure in the natural world.”—Frans de Waal, author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
"This thoroughly researched and beautifully presented book not only invites us into awe; its pages also celebrate the dynamic living processes that gave rise to all creatures, great and small."—David George Haskell, author of The Songs of Trees
"The biggest animals and plants in nature command our attention. They are the monsters of our nightmares, or the objects of our awe. Nature’s Giants is a wonderful tour of their oversized world, combining gorgeous photographs and illustrations with the latest insights that science has to offer about how life can get so large."—Carl Zimmer, author of She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity
“An attractive and accessible natural history of large organisms.”—Noel A. Heim, Stanford University