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Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare: An Ecologist's Perspective

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  138 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
Here is one of the most provocative, wide-ranging, and delightful books ever written about our environment. Paul Colinvaux takes a penetrating look at the science of ecology, bringing to his subject both profound knowledge and an enthusiasm that will encourage a greater understanding of the environment and of the efforts of those who seek to preserve it.
Paperback, 264 pages
Published November 21st 1979 by Princeton University Press (first published 1978)
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Apr 30, 2016 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first part of my review is actually in my reading progress comments below - if you really want to know what I think, you have to read those. ;)

Now I'm done. Overall, I love the book, and would have read it several times if I'd owned it when it was new & I was a teen. Now, I just don't know how much is still relevant, and what the current understanding of how nature works is compared to what it was back 4 decades ago. I do know I'm not convinced by the author's argument, in the last chapt
While this is a surprisingly complete collection of essay style chapters that cover the 'big' questions in ecology it is a little simplistic and slightly dated (the latter is obviously not the author's fault but it is worth noting). Colinvaux does manage to explain the cornerstone ecological theories in a manner that can be understood by all through comparison with the 'human world' but this does mean that some of the key complexities of such theories are lost (without much indication that they ...more
Feb 29, 2008 Geordie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you love Big Fierce Animals in theory but are secretly and occasionally anxiety-stricken that in the real world one or a bunch of them together are going to eventually eat you like a king-size Snickers bar as you lay in your sleeping bag (which brilliantly you got from Target and - nice one - actually has the huge Snickers logo on it to make it in fact look just like a Snickers bar already so you are pretty much boned and its totally your own kitschy fault) then this book is perfect for you c ...more
May 06, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
Recommended to John by: David Quammen
Shelves: someday-library
Clear-eyed, and full of appreciation. Reading reminded me of sitting on a porch with a great teacher, who is giving an impromptu seminar. I never did get my little bronze tags to flag the pages; I was constantly looking across the room, mentally reaching for them, but deciding I didn't want to put down the book.

"The sea is blue. This is a very odd thing because the sea is also wet and spread out under the sun. It ought to be green with plants as is the land, but it is not. There are murky coasts
Sep 25, 2011 Blevin rated it really liked it
my favorite kind of pop-science book. written by a real scientist, not a popularizer journalist. gives real insight into deep questions about the structure of the natural world, as well as the iterative process scientists have used over the years to try to understand it.
Jonas Gehrlein
Feb 13, 2017 Jonas Gehrlein rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, biology
Colinvaux explains core ecological principles well to a more broad audience, while not focusing especially on the intersection of environmentalism and Ecology as is common for most books that are aimed at a general audience. Some of his criticism of Carlson though do not fit with her writings.
Jan 11, 2016 Stephen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People interested in science or environmentalism
The title of this book, "Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare," captures pretty well its essential character. Somewhat surprisingly the book is not just about big fierce animals, but a wide-ranging tour of ecology and ecological thinking. The character of the book, though, is straightforward, relentlessly clear-headed, and also a bit whimsical. Colinvaux is a talented writer, able to convey a subtly humorous tone while remaining focused on the facts of ecology.

Each chapter gives a good expectation of
Jul 25, 2011 Ryan rated it did not like it
Shelves: nature
I found it frustrating going through this book as some of the ideas are unconventional and not entirely convincing, at least to a layperson. Having read basic ecology texts, the 'plain english' approach to conveying arguments was not that effective, I guess I would have liked to see more hard data and examples to back them. Quite a few chapters are great introductions to basic concepts like trophic levels, which I found more palatable. So overall this book is not too bad, just that the language ...more
Mihai Popa
Sep 05, 2010 Mihai Popa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I enjoyed a lot "Why big fierce animals are rare" as it is the best book in popularising Ecoloy I have ever found. It is deeeply scientific, correct and profound, yet simple, funny and seducing to read. Ecological ideas are presented here in a series of examples discussed in depth, with all their connections and implications from an ecological point of view.
Jul 09, 2011 Lee rated it it was amazing
Incredible book - a bit nerdy for most I'm guessing and I skipped around a bit rather than reading it beginning to end... but simply an awesome piece of scientific work packaged in an easily digestible public way.

Mar 22, 2016 Cristina rated it it was ok
I had to throw this book at the wall because he concludes that the human niche is to be AMERICAN. give me a break
David Rudin
Jan 14, 2016 David Rudin rated it liked it
I enjoyed most of the chapters, but honestly skipped several as being slow and tedious. Overall a great book and introduction to ecological thinking.
Andrew Furness
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Dec 11, 2012
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