Recommended Books

Information about extinct animals and plants can also found in other media than a website. There are many books on extinction related topics. This page features some books (in alphabetic order) that are recommended by The Sixth Extinction website. Happy Reading!

Video: A YouTube video from 'Meet the Author'. In this video Samuel Turvey, author of 'Witness to Extinction - How we failed to save the Yangtze River Dolphin', tells the story of the plight of the Yangtze River Dolphin from his unique perspective as a conservation biologist deeply involved in the struggle to save the dolphin.


A Gap in Nature

Title: A Gap in Nature
Subtitle: Discovering the world's extinct animals
Author: Tim Flannery & Peter Schouten
Language: English
Publisher: William Heinemann
ISBN: 0434008192

This book tells the tragic story of how, after Columbus' bold discovery of the Americas in 1492, the impact of European exploration and settlement was to prove fatal for many of the planet's most bizarre and extraordinary creatures. Every part of the planet was effected. These animals had no defence against lethal invaders: people, rats, foxes and cats. In all 103 animals (extinct birds, mammals, and reptiles) are commemorated, some of them are never before illustrated. This book is written by Tim Flannery and breathtakingly illustrated by Peter Schouten. 

El Bucardo de los Pirineos

Title: El Bucardo de los Pirineos
Author: Kees Woutersen
Language: Spanish
Publisher: Kees Woutersen Publicaciones
Distribution: LOGI Organización Editorial (Zaragoza)
ISBN: 978-84-616-0411-1

The last Pyrenean ibex, the last Pyrenean mountain goat, died in 2000 in the valley of Ordesa located in the Pyrenees. It was the first extinction of the century worldwide. Until now we knew few details of its history and it is difficult to understand why man could not save this helpless animal, who had enjoyed a century of legal protection. It was not easy to find answers. Old books and films, reports, photos, zoological collections and interviews with people who have been with the bucardo bring the pieces of a complicated puzzle. The question remains what to do with the legacy and memory of this animal. The author, a Dutchman settled in Huesca, invites readers to accompany him on his quest and look at the bucardo through the eyes of people who have been in contact with this animal. Proposes to remember as it was: a beautiful animal, interesting, part of a system that is constantly changing and that it died because we let it die.

Extinct Birds

Title: Extinct Birds
Author: Errol Fuller
Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0198508379

This is a entirely re-worked and a beautiful new edition. The first edition was published in 1987. Several species featured in the1987 book now seem lost and other species have been rediscovered. It is a fascinating record of those species of birds which have been unable to adapt and survive. It is also a timely reminder of the human capacity to change the environment for the worse. This book represents what seems to be true today, but today's truth may not be infallible. 

Holocene Extinctions

Title: Holocene extinctions
Author: Samuel T. Turvey
Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press 
ISBN: 978-0-19-953509-5 (hardcover) 

The extent to which human activity has influenced species extinctions during the recent prehistoric past remains controversial due to other factors such as climatic fluctuations and a general lack of data. However, the Holocene (the geological interval spanning the last 11,500 years from the end of the last glaciation) has witnessed massive levels of extinctions that have continued into the modern historical era, but in a context of only relatively minor climatic fluctuations. This makes a detailed consideration of these extinctions a useful system for investigating the impacts of human activity over time. Holocene Extinctions describes and analyses the range of global extinction events which have occurred during this key time period, as well as their relationship to both earlier and ongoing species losses. By integrating information from fields as diverse as zoology, ecology, palaeontology, archaeology and geography, and by incorporating data from a broad range of taxonomic groups and ecosystems, this novel text provides a fascinating insight into human impacts on global extinction rates, both past and present. This truly interdisciplinary book is suitable for both graduate students and researchers in these varied fields. It is also useful to policy-makers and conservation professionals since it provides valuable guidance on how to apply lessons from the past to prevent future biodiversity loss and inform modern conservation planning.

Lost Land of the Dodo

Title: Lost land of the dodo
Subtitle: An ecological history of Mauritius, Réunion & Rodrigues 
Author: Anthony Cheke & Julian Hume
Language: English
Publisher: Christopher Helm 
ISBN: 9780713665444 

The product of a lifetime of research by Anthony Cheke, Lost Land of the Dodo provides a comprehensive yet hugely enjoyable account of the story of the islands’ ecology. The book is richly illustrated with maps and contemporary illustrations of the animals and plants, many of which have not been reproduced for hundreds of years. Illustrated box texts look in detail at each extinct vertebrate species, while Julian Hume’s superb colour plates bring many of the extinct birds to life. Lost Land of the Dodo provides the definitive account of this tragic yet remarkable fauna, and is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of our relationship with the world around us. 

Caribbean Mon Seal

Title: Remembering a Species: A History of the Caribbean Monk Seal in Captivity
Author: Charles Epting
Language: English
Publisher: Lulu Press
ISBN: 978-0-557-92778-4

This book chronicles the fascinating, untold story of the Caribbean Monk Seal: the only seal native to the Caribbean Sea, the only species of true seal that has gone extinct in recent times, and, perhaps most interestingly, the only species of recently extinct mammalian carnivore that was displayed in captivity. This book looks at both scientific sources and primary sources to gather what is known about this species' life in captivity in one volume.

Retracing the Aurochs

Title: Retracing the Aurochs
Subtitle: History, Morphology and Ecology of an Extinct Wild Ox
Author: Cis van Vuure
Language: English
Publisher: Pensoft Publishers, Sofia & Moscow, 2005
ISBN: 9546422355

This book tells the comprehensive story of the extinct aurochs (Bos taurus primigenius), the wild ancestor of our domestic cattle, and of what is still left of it. Not only until its extinction in 1627, the aurochs, because of its appearance and nature, had left a deep impression on people, but also afterwards this bovine species, due to scanty information and questionable interpretations, has been subject to discussion and mystification. In spite of a growing amount of individual scientific studies, no exhaustive overview on this subject has ever been made. After many years of research at Wageningen University, the existing information as well as numerous new or unused data from the fields of archaeozoology, history, philology, ecology and palaeoecology have been brought together by the author to build up a complete picture of the physical appearance, the way of life and the environment of the aurochs. Directly related to the ecology of the aurochs is the ongoing discussion concerning the supposed impact large herbivores render on forest structure, as well as on the appearance of the natural landscapes they live in. Here, too, existing and new surprising data from various fields of science are compiled to elucidate this problem. In addition, due attention is paid to the origin, description and evaluation of the so-called bred-back aurochs (Heck cattle), used in several places for educational and nature conservation purposes. Only now can Heck cattle be properly compared with the original aurochs prototype. The book is addressed to specialists in mammalogy (interested in the archaeology, ecology, morphology and history of mammals), palaeoecology (because of the herbivore-impact debate concerning the former natural landscape), forest ecology and European nature conservation, to cattle breeders and other cattle lovers.

The Doomsday Book of Animals

Title: The Doomsday Book of Animals
Author: David Day
Language: English
Publisher: Studio
ISBN: 0670279870

A little dated now, but still this book is a worthy addition to any collection of extinct or endangered literature. Key highlights are the magnificent watercolours (some full page) of animals. Good reference text also on some less frequently documented extinctions, like several wolf subspecies, Eskimo Curlew, Caucasian bison, Bubal Hartebeest, Portuguese Ibex and various plants and fish. The book is out of print, so you can only purchase second hand copies of this book.

Tha Last Tasmanian Tiger

Title: The Last Tasmanian Tiger
Subtitle: The History and Extinction of the Thylacine
Author: Robert Paddle
Language: English
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 0521531543 and 9780521531542

This book is the most complete and up-to-date examination of the history and extinction of one of Australia's most enduring folkloric beasts - the thylacine, otherwise affectionately known as the Tasmanian tiger. Bob Paddle challenges conventional theories explaining the behaviour and eventual extinction of the thylacine, arguing that rural politicians used the Tasmanian tiger as a scapegoat to protect local agricultural enterprise from the consequences of mismanagement. After the population of thylacines was decimated through a bounty scheme, ineffective political action by scientists finally resulted in the extinction of a once proud species. Paddle also uncovers a deeper intellectual snobbery that set the scene for the thylacine's eventual extinction. The Last Tasmanian Tiger offers new perspectives on the subjective nature of scientific investigation and the politics of preservation. For its groundbreaking work it received the Whitley Medal of the Zoological Society of New South Wales for best science book of 2001.

The Lost World of the Moa

Title: The Lost World of the Moa
Subtitle: Prehistoric life in New Zealand
Author: Trevor H. Worthy, Richard N. Holdaway
Language: English
Publisher: Indiana University Press
ISBN: 0253340349

This book investigates one of the richest and most unusual faunas in the world, one that thrived in isolation for 80 million years, but that over the past two millennia has been reduced to a shadow of its former glory. It was a fauna dominated by birds. In one of the most dramatic extinctions of modern times, half of these species were removed from the planet forever. Among these lost animals were the giant birds known as moa, an evolutionary novelty that included one of the largest ever known. The authors describe the various species and place these in the context of the total fauna, where ducks, gruids, and even bats all followed an evolutionary path to flightless ness. However, most species were ill-prepared to face new mammalian predators, permanent human settlers and widespread mammalian introductions. 

Who Killed the Great Auk

Title: Who killed the Great Auk?
Author: Jeremy Gaskell
Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780198564782 

This intriguing book takes the reader on a tour of some of the wildest and coldest places on earth, in its attempt to uncover the history of the last days of the Great Auk. We travel with Audubon to Labrador, sail to the remote Scottish island of St Kilda, experience the hardship of life in the colonies of Newfoundland, and follow the peregrinations of intrepid naturalists as they put to sea in search of the very last of the Great Auks. The text is enhanced by numerous maps, photographs, and line drawings, and includes a fine original colour frontispiece by Jan Wilczur.

Witness to Extinction

Title: Witness to Extinction
Subtitle: How we failed to save the Yangtze River Dolphin
Author: Samuel Turvey
Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780199549474

The tragic recognition of the extinction of the Yangtze River Dolphin or baiji in 2007 became a major news story and sent shockwaves around the world. It made a romantic story, for the baiji was a unique and beautiful creature that features in many Chinese legends and folk tales. The Goddess of the Yangtze, as it was known, was also the lone representative of an entire and ancient branch of the Tree of Life. But perhaps the greater tragedy is that its status as one of the world's most threatened mammals had been widely recognized, yet despite wide publicity virtually no international funds became available. Samuel Turvey here tells the story of the plight of the Yangtze River Dolphin from his unique perspective as a conservation biologist deeply involved in the struggle to save the dolphin. This is both a celebration of a beautiful and remarkable animal that once graced one of China's greatest rivers, its natural history and its role as a cultural symbol; and also a personal, eyewitness account of the failures of policy and the struggle to get funds that led to its tragic demise. It is a true cautionary tale that we must learn from, for there are countless other threatened species that will suffer from the same human mistakes, and whose loss we shall not know until it is too late.


News Highlight

24 June 2012. The last Pinta giant tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdoni) Lonesome George dies. Read more: BBC News.


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