Published in Volume 19-3, 2012
STRAYER, D. L., 2012. The Hudson Primer: The Ecology of an Iconic River. University of California Press, x+207 p. 21 × 13.5 cm, softcover, US$ 24.95, ISBN: 978-0520269613.
David Strayer’s new book, The Hudson Primer: The Ecology of an Iconic River, is an informative and eminently readable book. He distills decades of research on the Hudson, one of the best studied rivers any-where, into a book that is accessible to a general audience. He does this without giving in to the temptation of oversimplification. The book introduces crucial ideas about how biotic and abiotic factors shape ecosystems and, importantly, how they operate and interact over a large range of temporal and spatial scales. The reader does not have to live near the Hudson for the book to be both relevant and compelling. For ecologists who are not specialists in freshwater and ecosystem studies, the book is a broad summary of some key studies that have been conducted in this ecosystem.
David Strayer is a freshwater ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies in Millbrook, New York. He has spent over 3 decades of his academic career in upstate New York, and much of his own research, which includes the study of pearly mussels, water celery, and zebra mussels, takes place on the Hudson. The scientific information in The Hudson Primer is presented with a clarity that comes from extreme familiarity, and the author’s personal concern for this system guides and strengthens his writing, particularly about conservation issues.
The book is structured into 3 parts. In the first 4 chapters, we are introduced to the geology, history, and water chemistry of the Hudson, taught the relevant concepts of water chemistry and freshwater ecology, and given a natural history background for some of the common organisms. Early in the book, the river kilometre on the Hudson is defined as the distance upstream from the Battery on the southern tip of Manhattan. The 247 river kilometres to Troy are the best studied part of the river, and the book travels back and forth along this distance. The river kilometre pervades the book as a metric that is used to help demark the co-ordinates of the specific places where studies have occurred. In so doing, it serves to emphasize the significant differences in local ecology. However, it is also a constant reminder to the reader that all is connected on a river system. PCBs dumped at Fort Edward inevitably appear on the shores of New York City, 318 km away.
Chapters 5 to 8 each describe one of 4 common habitats on the Hudson: the freshwater channel, the brackish-water channel, the vegetated shallows, and the wetlands. Each of these chapters starts with some of the physical characteristics, history, and basic local ecology of the habitat type. The focus then shifts to the particulars of studies that have been conducted in that habitat, with an emphasis on the ecosystem functions and controls.
The final 4 chapters cover conservation issues pertaining to the Hudson. These include the effect of pollutants, especially PCBs; habitat destruction by dredging, shore hardening, and dams; fisheries; and the appearance of non-native species, such as the devastating zebra mussels. These chapters are the author’s most passionate and compelling. We do not all live near the Hudson, but most of us live near a river. Research from river systems throughout the world, including the well-studied Nile, Amazon, Colorado, and Rhine, has been unequivocal in recognizing that humans have altered these systems—systems we use for water, food, trans-port, and habitat—in permanent ways. In order to preserve what is left, or in some cases even actively remediate areas, public awareness and support is the currency that has the potential to drive conservation action. It seems that this is one of the author’s motivations for writing this book, as he alludes to in his concluding chapter.
There is a brief section at the end of most chapters on “Things To See and Do”. This is a great idea that encourages those near the Hudson to see things for themselves and actively participate in local conservation matters. I hope that people make the trip to “notice how much (and what kind of) trash” (p. 146) washes up on the river shores, or “go to a pet shop with a list of harmful non-native species” (p. 192) to see if any are being sold, even though these aren’t typical ideas for a Sunday morning stroll. Each chapter also has a “Further Reading” section that is helpful in directing the reader to find out more about things that were particularly interesting.
Today, it is hard to imagine the mass of Atlantic sturgeon that were taken from the Hudson in the 1890s. The PCB levels in the 1970s, before measures were taken to reduce and remediate them, are just as unbelievable. The Hudson Primer is useful because it reminds us, or teaches us, of many of these things. The core strength of The Hudson Primer is the science that has taken place on this river. Strayer has a lot to write about that isn’t just opinion. It is the author’s personal involvement in the research and conservation on the river that makes the book interesting to read.
Department of biological sciences
University of Alberta
Published in Volume 19-2, 2012
Hannah, L. (ed), 2012. Saving a Million Species: Extinction Risk from Climate Change. Island Press, Washington, DC. 432 p. 15.5 x 22.9 cm. Hardcover, $US70, ISBN: 9781597265690; Paperback, US$35, ISBN: 9781597265706.
Chris Thomas and co-authors’ paper in Nature in 2004 was the first to predict the magnitude of species extinctions due to climate change. One million species, recalling the title, was a lower-end estimate that serves as a starting point for this book. In a valuable effort to bring together leading experts from different disciplines, this book explores past, present, and future predictions of species extinctions due to human-driven climate change and presents a comprehensive synthesis of knowns and unknowns about extinction risks associated to climate change.
The intended audience of this book are conservationists, researchers, teachers, students, and policy-makers. Making such a broad spectrum of readers happy at the same time is a challenging task that this book accomplishes through a clear structure and an easy-reading style. With a smart, logical outline, the book walks the reader through different examples of climate-change–related (or projected) extinctions, analyzing methodological issues and conservation implications. The book is divided into 6 sections, each preceded by a brief introduction, and every chapter begins by recalling its position within the bigger picture: where it comes from and where it leads to. The first section sets the scene and discusses the implications of the publication of Thomas et al.’s provocative paper, the criticisms it received from the scientific community, and its policy consequences. It is noteworthy that the second chapter is written by Chris Thomas himself; he presents their research first-hand, outlines the limitations of their methodological approach, and restates the importance of their findings. The second section of the book focuses on refinements of the first estimates, presenting recent advances in climate modelling and species distribution models and discussing the challenges associated with the application of species–area relationship approaches. Overall, it seems that the potential for overestimation in the early predictions may have been counterbalanced by the authors’ strong bias towards underestimation, and more recent models yield results in the same order of magnitude as Thomas et al.’s original estimates. The third section explores current extinctions due to ongoing climate change in terrestrial, marine, and the most affected polar regions. Inconclusive evidence about contemporary extinctions and the difficulty of establishing causation render the assessment of extinction risk due to climate change controversial. Only in some cases, and not without scientific debate, have recent species extinctions been linked to climate change. One such case is that of the golden toad (Bufo periglenes), which is depicted on the cover of the book. This section highlights the role of other environmental stressors, such as habitat loss and ocean acidification, that act together with climate change to increase extinction risk. Section 4 collects evidence from the past and shows that some previous climatic events can be related to extinction episodes, particularly in the case of recent extinctions in which human impacts compounded the effects of climate changes. Chapter 9 presents the perspective from the distant past, drawing on records 50 million years old and older; this chapter is rather hypothetical given the lack of resolution of the paleoecological record but nonetheless tries to identify the possible causes behind the variation in extinction rates. Chapter 10 presents 2 examples of climatic events in the last 50 million years to illustrate the biological effects of climate change in continental ecosystems and provide insights into potential future scenarios. A great portion of the book (146 pages, nearly 40% of its length) is encompassed by section 5, which is devoted to predicting future extinctions in a variety of systems and taxonomic groups: insects, tropical forests, coral reefs, oceans, and freshwater fauna. The last chapter in this section, chapter 18, is dedicated to the impacts of climate change on species interactions, a largely over-looked aspect in global change projections that is crucial to understanding its potential consequences. Finally, the last section proposes conservation strategies. In the final chapter, the editor of the book, Lee Hannah, nicely wraps up the take-home message from a burgeoning field of research: the need to take action.
Overall, the book oozes a feeling of uncertainty: there are many things we do not know, many others that we will not know in the near future, and an urgent need for action. However, a focus on the broader patterns is maintained throughout the text. This helps keep the reader motivated and feeling less pessimistic. Humorously, Hannah asserts that the good news is that, “because we have done so little to prepare for conservation in the face of climate change, there is much room to reduce the number of potential extinctions it may cause”. The book presents the challenges and uncertainties of predicting and deciphering the causes of extinctions in a straightforward and realistic manner, and thus accurately reflects the scientific scene of the moment. Estimating extinction risk is a difficult task, but as Lee Hannah states “extinction is a threat that ordinary people care about and relate to”; the value of these estimates lies not in their accuracy but in their ability to translate scientific research into language that non-researchers can understand. Based on the accumulated scientific evidence, the extinction risks confronting species are related not only to climate change, but to the full range of human activities that are threatening our planet. This book is a call for urgent action to reduce the causes and mitigate the already noticeable consequences of climate change in an attempt to save a million species.
Isabel C. Barrio
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9
Instituto de Investigacion en recursos cinegéticos
Ronda de Toledo S/N
Ciudad Real, 13071
Published in Volume 19-1, 2012
Bell, M. A., D. J. Futuyma, W. F. Eanes & J. S. Levinton (eds), 2010. Evolution Since Darwin: The First 150 Years. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts, USA. xv + 688 pp. 23.6 × 18 × 3.3 cm. Paperback, US $59.16,
The chapters of this book are selected papers from a commemorative conference held at Stony Brook University in November 2009, in which evolutionary biologists gathered to honour two important anniversaries: the 150th of the publication of Darwin’s Origin and the 50th of a Darwin centennial held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The authors have 2 main intentions for this volume: firstly, to provide an historical overview of evolutionary biology since 1859 (with an emphasis on developments made since 1959) and, secondly, to bring readers up-to-date (as of 2009) across major evolutionary subdisciplines, noting key discoveries and indicating which questions remain unresolved. As such, the contributors represent a wide array of subfields within evolutionary biology. With a few exceptions, the chapters are consistently both well researched and thought-provoking, lending the book an authoritative voice. The problems that do crop up are mostly related to style and readability. As a whole, this volume offers its audience—presumably practicing evolutionary biologists and graduate students—an exciting and current summary of evolutionary thought.
The book is structured in 8 sections, each containing 1 to 4 review chapters and 1 or 2 “commentaries”, which are more speculative. Section topics include the history of evolutionary biology since 1859, population genetics, the evolution of morphological forms, adaptation, diversity, human evolution, applied evolutionary biology, and the potential future of research in evolutionary biology. Evolution Since Darwin is, as a whole, a comprehensive and interesting volume, and its strengths lie in the recent, representative overview of evolutionary biology that it offers. As with any collaborative scholarly work, the quality of the contributions determines the worth of the volume, and many chapters in this book are very good. I’ll describe 3 specific examples that I found to be especially interesting.
In Chapter 4, Jianzhi Zhang provides a very readable overview of evolutionary genetics, beginning with Mendel and working toward modern molecular genetics. Zhang cleverly introduces 8 “emerging rules” (p. 93) to summarize key genetic insights relevant to evolutionary processes. For example, Rule #6 is “Gene duplication is the primary source of new genes” (p. 98), which has obvious significance given the fact that genuinely novel genes are (usually) required for new phenotypes. Rule #7 is “Changes in protein function and gene expression are both important in phenotypic evolution”, which is another valuable heuristic. Zhang concludes by noting 5 unsolved questions in evolutionary genetics. His willingness to explicitly state “rules” and “questions”, even if not absolute, serves to make major themes of a fast-moving discipline accessible to
Peter Wagner’s chapter (17) offers the reader a paleobiologist’s take on the evolution of morphological phenotypes and is impressively complete, directly addressing key themes such as the power of constraints and the importance of observed morphological disparity across clades. Wagner details the progress made since Darwin’s day in understanding the relationship between disparity and natural selection, noting that “trends [in morphological disparity] offer some of the strongest evidence of natural selection that the fossil record can provide” (p. 465). Wagner shows why paleontologists reject Darwin’s strict uniformitarianism but accept the importance of natural selection in producing large-scale changes. This chapter is especially effective at reminding the reader that Darwin’s ideas remain relevant, even if not considered strictly correct.
Perhaps the most original contribution to this volume is Peter Bowler’s chapter (2) on the impact of Darwin on evolutionary thought. This chapter is notable for being structured in a novel way: Bowler uses a method called “counterfactual history” to imagine a history of biology without Darwin. While the flakiness of this approach is undeniable (it relies solely on imagination and guesswork), Bowler’s conclusion—that without Darwin, German biologists (e.g., Haeckel) would have given evolutionary biology a focus on development and common descent in lieu of adaptation and natural selection—is plausible and allows the reader to reflect on the quintessentially Darwinian character of evolutionary biology since the Origin of Species. Bowler’s chapter is a unique and highly entertaining read, and its unconventional nature doesn’t take away from the power of his argument.
Stylistically, the book contains a few minor problems. As each section includes several chapters covering the same general topic, the reader is sometimes forced to read similar introductory material twice or more, even when chapters end up addressing distinct problems. One peculiar (and surprisingly annoying) feature of the book was the decision to vary the print layout between review and commentary chapters. The review chapters are laid out in a footnoted, standard one-column format, while commentary chapters are laid out in a two-column newspaper-like format with narrow margins, which makes them difficult to read. Additionally, some of the commentary chapters are very short and end abruptly, despite the content being engaging and relevant.
Despite these issues, Evolution Since Darwin successfully commemorates the influence of Darwin across evolutionary biology. I believe that any student in a graduate program would benefit from reading this book, as it provides an excellent collection of summaries across a variety of subfields, and provides a long list of citations from which to begin a more in-depth search. Course instructors too may want to consider this book if they are planning a course dealing with the history of evolutionary thought, particularly if the focus is on recent developments. As specialists will always have recent review articles in specific journals to consult, it is often difficult for non-specialists to begin to read papers in an area in which they do not specialize. This book is a wonderful choice for evolutionary biologists looking to expand their horizons to new subfields or to take a look at the field as an integrated whole.
P. William Hughes
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa ON K1S 5B6
Published in Volume 18-4, 2011
Piersma, T. & J. A. van Gils, 2011. The Flexible Phenotype: A Body-Centred Integration of Ecology, Physiology, and Behaviour. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ix + 238 p. 24.6 × 18.9 cm, hardcover, ISBN 978-0-19-923372-4.
Les organismes sont des systèmes complexes, organisés de façon modulaire et hiérarchique, qui interagissent avec l’environnement via des mécanismes physiologiques et comportementaux. L’environnement étant variable, la physiologie et le comportement sont hautement « plastiques » afin de permettre aux organismes de s’adapter aux changements. Ce livre intitulé The Flexible Phenotype devrait intéresser les lecteurs d’Écoscience, car il traite d’un mécanisme important en écologie et en évolution – la flexibilité phénotypique, soit le type de plasticité qui inclut les changements réversibles. La flexibilité phénotypique peut également intéresser le public en général, car ce concept inclut plusieurs phénomènes que nous observons quotidiennement, tels que les changements évidents que subit le corps humain lorsque soumis à un régime minceur ou un entraînement musculaire. Ces changements sont malheureusement réversibles!
Les auteurs de ce livre sont des spécialistes en écologie, physiologie et comportement animal; ils sont bien outillés pour synthétiser la plasticité des systèmes physiologiques et comportementaux en lien avec l’environnement. Ce livre arrive à un bon moment compte tenu de la rapidité avec laquelle s’accumulent les connaissances sur les processus évolutifs incluant le développement, l’auto-organisation et les multiples dimensions de l’hérédité (par exemple, interactions entre gènes et environnement, épigénétique). Ce livre est d’autant plus pertinent que la plupart des exemples classiques de plasticité phénotypique concernent des changements visibles à l’œil nu, alors que les auteurs de ce livre démontrent comment les organes internes sont aussi hautement flexibles. Saviez-vous que la masse du cœur d’un astronaute peut diminuer d’un quart en seulement une semaine dans l’espace extra-atmosphérique?
Le livre est bien illustré, il comporte beaucoup de figures et de photos d’excellente qualité (122 en tout!). Les titres des sections sont originaux et parfois même divertissants. Cependant, cela rend plus difficile la recherche de section d’intérêt particulier, un problème résolu en partie par les nombreuses figures (on peut tourner les pages et chercher une section d’intérêt en s’attardant à celles-ci). Les résumés à la fin de chaque chapitre sont bien écrits, mais ne représentent pas toujours l’ensemble du chapitre.
Le lectorat ciblé est constitué d’étudiants aux cycles supérieurs et de chercheurs dans les domaines de la physiologie, de l’écologie comportementale et de la biologie évolutive. Le livre pourrait très bien servir de base à une série de discussions entre étudiants et professeurs dans ces domaines. Le style d’écriture rend les concepts faciles à comprendre et la lecture divertissante. Je crois que ce livre pourrait intéresser toute personne curieuse de comprendre comment les oiseaux migrateurs réussissent à traverser le globe deux fois par année, de la Terre de Baffin à la Terre de Feu. L’acteur principal du livre est le bécasseau maubèche (Calidris canutus), une espèce d’oiseau de rivage que les auteurs du livre ont étudié pendant plusieurs années et dont les sous-espèces rufa et islandica visitent l’Arctique canadien en été pour se reproduire. Même si je ne possède que peu de connaissances sur l’écologie et la migration des oiseaux de rivage, il m’a été possible de bien comprendre les concepts appliqués à ceux-ci et d'apprécier la quantité de connaissances accumulée sur ces oiseaux.
Quoiqu’une grande attention soit portée aux oiseaux de rivage, le livre est aussi bien fourni en exemples reliés aux animaux familiers aux Canadiens et Québécois. En effet, les principes de base en physiologie sont expliqués à l’aide d’exemples tels que la formation des bois chez les cervidés, le plumage du lagopède alpin (Lagopus muta) et le comportement antiprédateur des têtards de la grenouille des bois (Rana sylvatica). J’ai aussi bien aimé les passages qui traitent des « exploits » physiques des cyclistes du Tour de France, des aventuriers en expédition vers les pôles et des chiens de traîneaux.
La lecture de ce livre permet d’apprécier l’énorme quantité de travail réalisée par de grands scientifiques comme Newton et Darwin ainsi que par des piliers du domaine de la physiologie tels que Rubner, Pearl, Kleiber, Scholander, Bartholomew ainsi que des chercheurs proéminents tels que Charnov, Hochachka, Speakman, Diamond, Daan, Drent, Wingfield, Kenagy, Garland, et quelques étoiles montantes dans le domaine comme Naya et Vézina. J’ai bien aimé me faire raconter l’histoire derrière les travaux de Scholander (1955). En bref, les sujets abordés et les exemples donnés sont très diversifiés et on y retrouve un bon mélange d’historique et de résultats.
Les chapitres sont organisés de façon logique en quatre grandes catégories. La première partie introduit les principes de base en physiologie tels que les échanges de chaleur et la symmorphose (de l’anglais symmorphosis, théorie selon laquelle les organismes sont organisés de façon « économique », c'est-à-dire que les composantes d’un module sont ajustées les unes aux autres). Dans la deuxième partie, les auteurs ajoutent l’environnement dans l’équation et expliquent les facteurs qui limitent les dépenses énergétiques et déterminent les « plafonds » métaboliques. C’est dans cette section qu’est introduite en détail la notion de flexibilité phénotypique à l’aide d’un exemple sur le pénis… des bernacles (Balanus glandula)! La troisième partie du livre traite de la catégorie des traits les plus flexibles : le comportement. Enfin, la dernière partie du livre apporte une vision hautement intégrative de la physiologie, du comportement et de l’évolution. Cette intégration est d’autant plus importante dans le contexte du livre centré sur l’organisme, car un scientifique aspirant à une compréhension holistique de la biologie se doit d’ignorer les catégories de spécialisation scientifique (Bartholomew, 2005). L’organisation du livre est très bien pensée, mais au début, le lecteur est souvent référé à d’autres sections qui précédent ou qui suivent.
La section sur les plafonds métaboliques est efficace et résume bien les connaissances actuelles sur le sujet. J’ai aussi grandement apprécié la partie sur le taux métabolique de base (TMB) qui contient une réflexion intéressante, comme quoi cette mesure standardisée serait un package deal of so many different things. En effet, le TMB peut être considéré comme un épiphénomène sur lequel la sélection ne peut pas vraiment agir directement. Cependant, la sélection peut influencer l’évolution du TMB en agissant sur les composantes qui le constituent, telles que les organes digestifs, le système immunitaire, etc. Il est aussi très intéressant que cette section sur le TMB soit introduite par un exemple tiré d’un cahier de notes de nul autre que Darwin. Selon ses observations, le système respiratoire du kiwi (genre Apteryx) devait être petit. Il pensa alors que cet oiseau devrait se comporter de façon effacée et calme. Cette idée est particulièrement semblable à une récemment soulevée selon laquelle l’évolution du TMB pourrait être reliée à la personnalité (Careau et al., 2008)!
N’ayant pas lu d’autres livres sur la plasticité phénotypique, je ne suis pas en mesure de témoigner de l’originalité de celui-ci à cet égard. Cependant, j’ai trouvé le Chapitre 5 sur la plasticité phénotypique excellent. Même si la littérature sur la plasticité phénotypique augmente rapidement, les auteurs soulignent que la plupart des exemples de plasticité concernent les traits que l’on peut voir et pour lesquels la plasticité est évidente. Le Chapitre 5 rétablit un bel équilibre, car il traite de la plasticité des organes internes. J’ai particulièrement apprécié la figure 57 qui résume bien les différents types de plasticité en fonction de la prévisibilité et de la variabilité environnementale (inter- ou intra-individuelle). Cette figure établit un cadre de travail clair, ce qui est très important afin de faciliter l’étude de la flexibilité phénotypique.
Les auteurs font un bel effort pour intégrer le comportement dans l’équation et ceci passe bien tout au long du livre tant que le comportement est considéré de façon implicite. Par exemple, à la page 90, les auteurs expliquent un cas assez intéressant au sujet du comportement du lagopède alpin à Sarcpa Lake, au Nunavut. Les mâles, qui arborent un plumage blanc pour être visible auprès des femelles, se salissent de boue lorsque ces dernières sont fécondées, un bel exemple de la façon dont un comportement peut apporter une solution rapide à un problème morphologique.
Cependant, la troisième partie du livre qui traite du comportement de façon explicite est relativement soporifique, car les deux chapitres qu’elle contient sont entièrement basés sur l’approche d’optimalité. À plusieurs reprises, les auteurs proclament le triomphe de cette approche afin d’expliquer le comportement, mais ces modèles sont loin de tout expliquer. En effet, les modèles d’optimalité ne considèrent que les différences entre la moyenne du comportement dans différents environnements, ce qui ignore complètement la variabilité individuelle autour de la moyenne (Wilson, 1998). De plus, la correspondance entre les données recueillies par les auteurs et les modèles d’optimalité est peu évidente de prime abord. Les auteurs développent et raffinent alors de plus en plus leurs modèles d’optimalité pour en arriver à conclure que c’est la variation individuelle qui est la solution (page 140)!
D’autre part, les auteurs ont ignoré un champ de recherche de l’écologie comportementale tout aussi bourgeonnant que la plasticité phénotypique : la personnalité. L’essor de ce domaine étant relativement récent, je peux comprendre pourquoi il n’a pas été inclus dans ce livre. Ceci est tout de même dommage, car la personnalité peut être vue comme la limite de la flexibilité comportementale (Dingemanse et al., 2010). Inclure la personnalité dans la partie sur le comportement en aurait, à mon avis, grandement augmenté l’intérêt et peut-être facilité l’intégration dans un contexte évolutif (Réale et al., 2010). Les auteurs soulignent l’importance de la variation individuelle à quelques endroits tels que pour la perte de masse osseuse lors des séjours dans l’espace (page 83). Les auteurs soulignent également l’importance de la « peur » en écologie, ce qui correspond à un trait de personnalité, c’est-à-dire la témérité (Réale et al., 2007). J’aurais donc aimé voir comment les différences individuelles de comportement peuvent être reliées à la flexibilité des mécanismes physiologiques.
Le chapitre final se démène avec « l’évolution en cinq dimensions », en référence au livre d’Eva Jablonka et Marion Lamb (2005) intitulé Evolution in four dimensions. Piersma et van Gils apportent une nuance à une des dimensions de Jablonka et Lamb (d’où la cinquième dimension) et argumentent que le concept de flexibilité phénotypique est central pour la pensée évolutionniste postmoderne. Dans ce chapitre, les auteurs considèrent également l’idée selon laquelle le comportement a la primauté dans l’évolution. Les auteurs admettent que l’écriture du dernier chapitre a été difficile (page 7). Notre compréhension de l’évolution de la plasticité phénotypique étant embryonnaire, il est probablement encore trop tôt pour élaborer des conclusions novatrices sur les implications évolutives de la flexibilité (même si je pense que l’intégration de la personnalité aurait grandement aidé). Beaucoup de travail reste à faire et ce chapitre représente bien cette situation.
En résumé, ce livre est excellent, je le recommande aux écologistes en général, et particulièrement à ceux qui s’intéressent au comportement et à la physiologie. Les auteurs ont rassemblé et synthétisé une quantité impressionnante d’informations sur la flexibilité phénotypique, un phénomène très répandu dont l’importance a souvent été négligée. La lecture est divertissante en raison des touches d’humour, des passages historiques et du mélange entre les exemples sur le bécasseau maubèche et d’autres organismes. Les chapitres sont bien organisés, quoique la partie sur le comportement le soit un peu moins (ceci étant dit, peut-être que le livre lui-même représente un exemple de non-respect du principe de la symmorphose!). Dans les années à venir, ce livre aura certainement un rôle important à jouer pour l’avancement des connaissances sur la flexibilité phénotypique.
Department of Biology,
University of California, Riverside
Riverside, California 92521, USA
Phone: 951 827-4026
Bartholomew, G., 2005. Integrative biology, an organismic
biologist’s point of view. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 45: 330–332.
Careau, V., D. Thomas, M. M. Humphries & D. Réale, 2008. Energy metabolism and animal personality. Oikos, 117:
Dingemanse, N. J., A. J. N. Kazem, D. Réale & J. Wright, 2010. Behavioural reaction norms: Animal personality meets individual plasticity. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 25: 81–89.
Jablonka, E. & M. J. Lamb, 2005. Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Réale, D., S. M. Reader, D. Sol, P. T. McDougall & N. J. Dingemanse, 2007. Integrating animal temperament within ecology and evolution. Biological Reviews, 82: 291–318.
Réale, D., N. J. Dingemanse, A. J. N. Kazem & J. Wright, 2010. Evolutionary and ecological approaches to the study of
personality. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B, 365: 3937–3946.
Scholander, P. F., 1955. Evolution of climatic adaptation in homeotherms. Evolution, 9: 15–26.
Wilson, D. S., 1998. Adaptive individual differences within single populations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B, 353: 199–205.
Lomolino, M. V., B. R. Riddle, R. J. Whittaker & J. H. Brown, 2010. Biogeography. Fourth Edition. Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, Massachusetts, xi + 878 p., hardcover, US$105.95, ISBN 978-0-87893-494-2
The fourth edition of Biogeography presents a comprehensive, up-to-date, and balanced review of many aspects of the discipline. The first elements attracting notice in this new edition are the addition of Robert J. Whittaker to the author team, a thorough revision of the contents, with a large number of references (some 2500 titles), and the use of high-quality colour illustrations, evaluated and optimized for colour-blind readers as well. Most of the illustrations were selected from case studies in the primary literature and generally modified to improve their explanatory value, but there are also many cases of figures explicitly drawn for the book.
The book is organized into 6 main units. Unit 1 includes 2 chapters. In Chapter 1, the authors introduce the field of biogeography and explain its relationships with other disciplines, while in Chapter 2 they present a splendid exposition of the historical development of biogeography, beautifully illustrated with portraits of important scientists and pictures taken from their original publications. Many historical notes are also provided throughout the book to illustrate how facts were discovered and theories formulated.
Unit 2 deals with the ecological side of biogeography and is dedicated to the geographical and ecological foundations of biogeography. In particular, Chapter 3 examines patterns of distribution and how these can be described, with an introductory presentation of the main physical factors (climate, soils, water, etc.) that constitute the “geographical template”. Chapter 4 describes different aspects of population, community, and ecosystem functioning, with a multiscale discussion illustrating how species interactions and environmental factors mould geographical ranges. On the whole, this unit illustrates many aspects of general ecology, and in this respect it would also constitute useful reading for students who are not specifically interested in biogeography but need a primer to other, related ecological fields.
Unit 3 passes from patterns to processes. Chapter 6 is dedicated to the processes of dispersal and immigration, while Chapter 7 is dedicated to speciation and extinction. With this chapter, the book moves to more evolutionary ground, for which a background knowledge of Earth’s history is useful. For this purpose, the following Chapter 8 offers an excellent exposition of plate tectonics. The Pleistocene glaciations, which were the most recent events in Earth’s history to have a major effect on species distributions, are reviewed in Chapter 9, with a detailed illustration of their main effects (shifts in climatic zones, changes in sea level, elevational shifts in vegetation zones, formation of lakes, biotic exchanges, species
Unit 4 relates current patterns to the underlying processes. Chapter 10 is focused on fundamental geographical patterns, from endemism (with a discussion of types and origin of endemics) to provincialism (terrestrial and marine biogeographical regions), barriers, migrations, and biotic interchanges (with a special focus on the Great American Biotic Interchange and the Lessepsian Exchange). This chapter also includes a classification of islands according to their origin into 2 main groups (oceanic versus continental), a methodological paragraph on the quantitative measures of biogeographical similarities, and an intriguing paragraph on the divergence and convergence of isolated biotas. Chapter 11 is entirely dedicated to methods of phylogenetic reconstructions and the intersections between phylogenies and distributions, with an up-to-date discussion of phylogeography (also developed in Chapter 12). Although the use of molecular techniques has attracted the most interest in recent biogeography, and one of the authors has a strong academic background in phylogeography, this subject is not over-emphasized, but treated in a balanced way. The exploration of the historical side of biogeography is completed in Chapter 12. This chapter presents a thoughtful exploration of the research controversies that have characterized (and continue to characterize) the exciting area of historical biogeography: centres of origin, panbiogeography, vicariance biogeography, phylogeography, etc. Given the methodological nature of the most debated issues, this chapter presents an extended review of approaches and methods in historical biogeography.
Unit 5 is dedicated to ecogeography and includes 3 chapters. Chapters 13 and 14 are devoted to island biogeography, ranging from patterns in species richness to assembly and evolution of insular biotas. J. H. Brown and M. V. Lomolino (the 2 authors of the second edition of Biogeography) have a strong academic background in island biogeography, and the addition of R. J. Whittaker, another scientist with a keen interest in island biogeography, has given the author team an even stronger “insular” character. This is reflected in the wide-ranging treatment of island biogeography presented in these 2 chapters (in addition to many aspects developed in other parts of the book). Together, these 2 chapters, covering virtually all aspects of island biogeography in 110 densely packed pages, constitute a superb book in their own right. Chapter 15 is dedicated to questions related to the fast-growing field of macroecology, such as the study of sizes, shapes, overlaps, and temporal dynamics of species ranges, ecogeographical rules (e.g., Bergmann’s, Allen’s, Gloger’s, Jordan’s Thorson’s, Rensch’s rules), and gradients in species diversity.
Unit 6 explores the emerging research program of conservation biogeography and the most exciting frontiers of biogeography. Chapter 16 explains the biogeographical foundations of biological conservation, the impact of humans on species distribution and extinction, and the biogeographical history of our species, while Chapter 17 lists the major challenges of modern biogeography, with a look at the future of the discipline.
Sections regarding particular case studies, historical notes on the development of the discipline, methodological issues, or other collateral arguments that might interfere with the narrative flow are presented as boxes that can be read independently from the main text. The book also includes a final glossary and a detailed analytical index.
All in all, the authors have produced a superb work, a true “summa biogeographica”, which makes the fourth edition of Biogeography not only an excellent textbook for university courses, but also an authoritative reference and a mine of information for all biogeographers.
Water Ecology Team,
Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences,
University of Milano Bicocca,
Piazza della Scienza 2,
20126, Milan, Italy,
Azorean Biodiversity Group (CITA-A),
Departamento de Ciências Agrárias,
Universidade dos Açores, Terra-Chã,
9701-851, Angra do Heroísmo,
Terceira, Azores, Portugal,
Published in Volume 18-1, 2011
Hayek, L. C. & M. A. Buzas, 2010. Surveying Natural Populations. Quantitative Tools for Assessing Biodiversity. 2nd Edition. Columbia University Press, x + 616 p., 18.3 × 25.6 cm, hardcover, US$85.00, ISBN 978-0-231-14620-3.
This book covers two interrelated aspects of numerical ecology: surveying natural populations and quantifying biodiversity. Both issues are extensively presented in other excellent books (Maguraan, 1988; 2004; Krebs, 1999; Legendre & Legendre, 2000), so one might ask in what this ponderous book differs from the others. This book has a number of intriguing characteristics that qualifies it as a ‘must have’ publication. It is not a comprehensive, well-balanced, up to date synthesis of the state of the art in the field of survey sampling and biodiversity assessment. Rather, it is a personal view of the main concepts, a brilliant explanation of basic techniques, and a collection of new, exciting approaches.
The first four chapters explain some basic concepts of statistics (mean, variance, normal distribution, standard error, confidence limits, etc.), which are obviously treated in any textbook of biostatistics. However, these arguments are presented here in a very didactic and unconventional style. Moreover, these chapters introduce the real data set, to which all following chapters will be referring to as an illustrative example.
Chapters 5 to 8 are dedicated to field sampling and are therefore more specifically oriented toward ecological problems. This section is very well organized and will be a precious guide for those who want to understand the mathematics behind survey sampling, with special reference to simple random, cluster, systematic, and stratified samplings. Chapter 9 is dedicated to ‘species abundance distributions’. This chapter is very indicative of the authors’ preferences and idiosyncrasies. Current literature offers a plethora of models describing species abundance distributions and a variety of methods to deal with them (see Fattorini, 2005). However, the authors concentrate their attention on certain models, completely omitting most of the others. Some readers would be surprised to see that some recent advances in this field are completely ignored, but this draconian approach allowed the authors to present in the best way the models more directly involved in the issues developed in the other chapters. A similar approach characterizes Chapter 12, where the authors focus on certain particular approaches to the problem of estimating species numbers, omitting many aspects of rarefaction procedures (Gotelli & Colwell, 2001) and the entire field of non-parametric estimators (Chiarucci et al., 2003). Chapter 10 introduces the concepts of regression and correlation. Again, these topics are treated in any textbook of statistics, but Hayek and Buzas’ presentation offers much originality worth of reading. Chapter 11 is a very intriguing essay about how occurrence (presence/absence) data can be used as surrogate for abundance distribution and fit by statistical distributions.
Chapters 13-16 are dedicated to the properties and applications of a variety of indices of biodiversity (including the well known indices of Margaleff, Simpson, Shannon, etc.). In Chapter 16, the authors show how various indices of diversity, dominance and evenness are interrelated, and explain how the Shannon and Simpson indices can be decomposed into their component parts consisting of species richness and evenness (a subject presented in previous papers by the same authors but that is fully developed here). In Chapter 17, the authors present a stimulating new way (originally proposed in other papers, but developed here completely) to describe multiple aspects of diversity through a diagram, the biodiversitygram. This diagram is a plot of log-transformed species richness (lnS), diversity (H), and log-transformed evenness (lnE) on a single x-axis of log-transformed number of individuals (lnN), along with regression estimates, and Chapter 18 shows the relationships between species abundance distributions and patterns of biodiversitygrams.
Each chapter includes a final summary and some problems, while six appendices report data used in the illustrative examples, a table of random numbers, computed values of the parameter alpha of the log-series for a very wide extent of individual and species numbers, and answers to the problems.
The book can be read without any previous background in advanced mathematics. Although only arithmetic and basic algebra are used, the book is, after all, a book of statistics, so “at least not an aversion to algebra is required”, as the authors warn. If you are searching for a cookbook of survey sampling procedures and biodiversity measurements this book is not for you. But if you are a student who wants to understand the subject fully, or an expert ecologist who is interested in considering the subject from new, intriguing perspectives, you will not be disappointed.
Chiarucci, A., N. J. Enright, G. L. W. Perry, B. P. Miller & B. B. Lamont, 2003. Performance of nonparametric species richness estimators in a high diversity plant community. Diversity and Distributions, 9: 283–295.
Fattorini, S., 2005. A simple method to fit geometric series and broken stick models in community ecology and island biogeography. Acta Oecologica, 28: 199–205.
Gotelli, N. J. & R. K. Colwell, 2001. Quantifying biodiversity: Procedures and pitfalls in the measurements and comparison of species richness. Ecology Letters, 4: 379–391.
Krebs, C. J., 1999. Ecological Methodology. Harper & Row, New York, New York.
Legendre, P. & L. Legendre, 2000. Numerical Ecology. Elsevier, Amsterdam.
Magurran, A. E., 1988. Ecological Diversity and its Measurement. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Magurran, A. E., 2004. Measuring Biological Diversity. Blackwell, Oxford.
Water Ecology Team
Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences
University of Milano Bicocca
Piazza della Scienza 2
20126, Milan, Italy
Azorean Biodiversity Group (CITA-A)
Departamento de Ciências Agrárias
Universidade dos Açores, Terra-Chã
9701-851, Angra do Heroísmo
Terceira, Azores, Portugal
Parenti, L. R. & Ebach, M. C., 2009. Comparative Biogeography: Discovering and Classifying Biogeographical Patterns of a Dynamic Earth. University of California Press, xi + 312 p., 15.7 x 23.3 cm, hardcover, US$39.95, ISBN 978-0520259454.
With the rise of cladistics, historical biogeography has been profoundly renewed. The rapid development of a multitude of techniques based on phylogenetic reconstructions has led to a surge of methodological reviews and comparative applications (Morrone & Crisci, 1995; Humphries & Parenti, 1999; Van Veller, Brooks and Zandee, 2003; Morrone, 2005; Ebach & Morrone, 2005). The current panorama is as exciting as it is frustrating. We have a large number of approaches, which produce different results when applied to the same data set. Some contrasting results are probably due to the fact that certain approaches are inherently flawed; others are due to the fact that different methods have been applied to questions different from those for which they were conceived (Fattorini, 2008).
In this intriguing book, Parenti and Ebach present a new approach to use phylogenies to identify area patterns. Thus, the book falls within the research program of historical biogeography concerning Earth’s history. The approach of Parenti and Ebach (thereafter referred to as PE approach) is to find relationships among areas based on the phylogenies of the taxa that inhabit those areas. So, the final output is a natural classification of areas. From this point of view, PE approach is similar to that of modern systematics. In systematics, taxa are organized into monophyletic groups. For this, characters are analysed to find homologs (structures that are found in an inclusive groups of organisms, even if in different forms). In PE approach, areas are organized into monophyletic groups (i.e., areas that share the same biological and geological history) and, for this, phylogenies of their taxa are analysed to find area homologies. It is thus not surprising that the first chapter of this book is a sound discussion of classification principles (although the concept of area homology is fully discussed in Chapter 2). In Chapter 1, the authors also present a brief, but very well done, recapitulation of the impact of cladistics and Croizat’s ideas in historical biogeography. As a single character cannot be informative of phylogenetic relationships, so a single phylogeny is not useful to reconstruct area relationships. Relationships among taxa can be deduced only by comparing several characters. Similarly, relationships among areas can be deduced only by comparing multiple phylogenies. Hence the expression ‘comparative biogeography’ is used for their approach.
In Chapter 2, the authors focus on the history and development of ‘comparative biogeography’, i.e. the attempts of identifying biologically meaningful areas and to organize them in a classification scheme. This chapter presents an historical account from de Candolle’s epoch to current time illustrated with beautiful photographs of fascinating old maps.
Recalling the parallel with systematics, for the PE approach we need to define the basic unit in biogeography, which can be considered an equivalent of the taxon concept in systematics. Because biogeography deals with areas, we must define the concept of a basic area called by PE an ‘endemic area’. A group of endemic areas forms a ‘biotic area’ (as a group of related taxa define a larger taxon). A taxon is a recognized group of organisms that share relationships. An endemic area is a group of places that share biotic relationships. Systematics does not deal directly with organisms, but with taxa. So, PE approach does not deal directly with places, but with endemic areas. It is always difficult to define a taxon and taxonomists continuously refine the taxa on which they work. However, this is considered a source of new knowledge, not a frustrating limit. Moreover, taxonomists use some concepts profitably, even if their definition may be controversial or non-universal. For example, there is an impressive number of species concepts and it is impossible to have a concept of species valid for all organisms, yet taxonomists recognise species and probably nobody would argue that a concept of species is useful, even if controversial. The definition of endemic areas and their recognition is as difficult as the definition and recognition of species, and Chapter 3 is largely dedicated to this basic problem.
Chapter 4 presents the PE approach to the identification of the homologous area relationships, which group endemic areas into biotic areas, and is therefore the conceptual core of the book. PE approach can be very roughly summarized as follows:
1) The first step consists in identifying endemic areas. This is done not only on a geographical basis (although some endemic areas can correspond to geographically defined areas) but should be also based on the distribution of endemic taxa. These endemic areas might be re-defined (for example by aggregation or subdivision) at the end of the analysis.
2) In a second step, cladograms are collected for various groups inhabiting these endemic areas.
3) Then the names of the terminal taxa on the cladograms (assuming here for simplicity, that they are species) are replaced with the names of the endemic areas where they live. Obviously, several sources of ‘ambiguity’ may exist. For example, a species can be found in more than one area, and the same area can be inhabited by several species; relationships among species can be unresolved (polytomies). Sources of ambiguity are well explained in this chapter.
4) To overcome these ‘contradictions’, all possible informative (non-contradictory) subtrees are extracted from each cladogram.
5) Finally, all resolved subtrees are combined into a single minimal tree using three-item and compatibility analysis (a computer program such as Nelson05 can do it). This minimal tree is the final ‘general areagram’.
I am aware that, for people not familiar with the language and techniques of cladistic biogeography, this summary may appear cryptic. However, the procedure is described in details in the book and is well understandable even for non-specialists.
Chapters 5 to 7 compare the PE approach with other methods used in historical biogeography. Chapter 5 discusses the meaning of ‘processes’, ‘patterns’, and ‘mechanisms’. These distinctions are very important (although sometimes ignored), because we should avoid the use of a method designed to address one question to solve another question. Processes over time form patterns, and we can use patterns to reconstruct processes. Mechanisms are hypothetical, undetected events or narratives that explain a pattern or a process. These definitions are fully developed to distinguish vicariance as a process from vicariance as a mechanism, a central issue in cladistic biogeography.
Chapter 6 is a review of a number of methods used in historical biogeography. This chapter was not intended to be a complete and detailed review, because the authors concentrate their discussion on the aspects that can be more properly compared with their approach. However, because each method is briefly described before being compared with PE approach, this chapter may be used as a very good primer for readers who want an up-to-date overview of the state of the art in this field. In this chapter, the authors also attempt to organize all discussed methods into a classification scheme. For this, they distinguish between ‘methods’ and ‘applications’, but this distinction is not clear to me, and the text is sometimes contradictory because some ‘applications’ are also referred as ‘methods’. Moreover, in their criticism of certain methods there are some aspects that are too briefly dismissed. For example, regarding the Hovenkamp Vicariance Analyses (HVA1 and HVA2, which are listed as an ‘application’), they state that ‘the method agrees with our current knowledge of geology because it is dependent upon it’ (page 147), whereas HVA1 and HVA2 are based only on phylogenies and current distribution, without reference to geology. On the other hand, I entirely share their criticism of phylogeography (the use of molecular data to hypothesize the process responsible of current distributions), as currently performed in most researches. The authors identify two main problems with current applications of phylogeographical approaches: (1) the use of the ‘progression rule’ (the progression from the most basal node to the most derived one is interpreted as a direction of dispersal, a mechanism not possible to test for), and (2) the inference of migration of populations away from a center of origin as a distributional mechanism. To these critiques, I would add the blind use of molecular clocks, which are calibrated using particular geological events, assumed to be known with certainty. This makes phylogeographical analyses strictly dependent on geology, and therefore any further inference is flawed by this circularity.
Chapter 7 discusses in detail how to apply PE approach. This chapter is therefore a technical description of the procedures summarized in the five steps described above. It is particularly useful to better understand how to proceed in the real word. Chapter 8 is a short essay on geology. This chapter is not essential to the development of the ideas presented in this book, but it might be particularly useful for students (both undergraduate and graduate) who do not have a geological curriculum but are interested in historical biogeography. Chapter 9 presents an application of PE approach to the biogeography of the Pacific. Apart from the high interest for our understanding of the Pacific biogeography, this Chapter is very useful to understand PE approach, especially if read in conjunction with Chapters 4 and 7. Chapter 10 is an effort to re-define biogeography as a central science, which not only has largely contributed to our current vision of the word (by giving essential contributions to the development of the evolutionary and geological thinking), but which has the full potential to be a Big Science in the future.
Biogeography is an inherently multifaceted discipline. The approach described in this book is a valuable proposal for a particular research program of historical biogeography (reconstruction of area relationships through phylogenies). I think that historical biogeography cannot be reduced solely to this particular (albeit important) aim. Moreover, not all biogeography is historical. However, this book is essential reading for all researchers interested in historical biogeography, and can be very useful also for people interested in other biogeographical fields (after all, any species or place has a history).
The book is well organized and each chapter ends with a summary. Many boxes develop collateral but intriguing issues (including the life and work of various scientists who contributed to the development of historical biogeography) and a glossary provides clear definitions of the main technical terms used in the text. The authors should be congratulated for their efforts for defining each technical word at their first occurrence, and to use the terms very consistently (a small exception is the use of the expression ‘phylogenetic hypothesis’ for the figure of page 217, where the word ‘cladogram’ would be probably more appropriate according to the distinction presented on page 163). The book is well illustrated and contains an extensive bibliography of more than 400 titles. On the whole, it is a very interesting book, a fundamental contribution to historical biogeography, and a ‘must have’ publication for any researcher interested in biogeography.
Ebach, M. C. & J. J. Morrone, 2005. Forum on historical biogeography: What is cladistic biogeography? Journal of Biogeography, 32: 2179–2187.
Fattorini, S., 2008. Hovenkamp’s ostracized vicariance analysis: Testing new methods of historical biogeography. Cladistics, 24: 611–622.
Humphries, C. J. & L. R. Parenti, 1999. Cladistic Biogeography. Interpreting Patterns of Plant and Animal Distributions. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Morrone, J. J., 2005. Cladistic biogeography: Identity and place. Journal of Biogeography, 32: 1281–1286.
Morrone, J. J. & J. V. Crisci, 1995. Historical biogeography: Introduction to methods. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 26: 373–401.
Van Veller, M. G. P., D. R. Brooks & M. Zandee, 2003. Cladistic and phylogenetic biogeography: The Art and the science of discovery. Journal of Biogeography, 30: 319–329.
Water Ecology Team
Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences
University of Milano Bicocca
Piazza della Scienza 2
20126, Milan, Italy
Azorean Biodiversity Group (CITA-A)
Departamento de Ciências Agrárias
Universidade dos A&