The Ptarmigan's Dilemma
An Ecological Exploration into the Mysteries of Life
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
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Winner of the 2010 Lane Anderson Award
Drawing on breakthrough research in evolution, genetics, and on their extensive work in the field and lab, wildlife biologists John and Mary Theberge explain for non-scientists the real facts of life.
Birds that suddenly grow gall bladders, when their species has none. Moose with antlers so big they encumber their movement through the forest. Butterflies that risk extinction by overwintering en masse. These are just a few stories the Theberges tell in their examination of what the mechanisms of evolution are and how they work. With examples from the very latest discoveries in genetics and ones they have made in their own field work, The Ptarmigan's Dilemma is a ground-breaking explanation of evolution for non-scientists.
By marrying the separate sciences of ecology and genetics, the Theberges paint a picture far richer than either discipline can alone of how, for almost 4 billion years, life on Earth has evolved into the rich diversity that's under threat today. Along the way, they explain just what "the survival of the fittest" really means, how dramatic evolutionary changes can take place in just one generation, and how our too-little knowledge of or interest in how life on Earth organizes and supports itself is rapidly making us a danger to ourselves.
JOHN THEBERGE and MARY THEBERGE have spent more than thirty years conducting field research in the Yukon, Labrador, and British Columbia, and especially in Algonquin Park, Ontario. They have collaborated on many scientific and popular articles and were jointly awarded the 1994 Equinox Citation for Environmental Achievement.
John B. Theberge was until his recent retirement a professor of ecology and resource management in the faculty of environment studies at the University of Waterloo, where he taught since 1970. Mary Theberge is a wildlife illustrator and wolf researcher and has presented many popular programs about their discoveries. They are the authors of several books, including Kluane: Pinnacle of the Yukon, Wolf Country, and Legacy: A Natural History of Ontario.
"The Ptarmigan's Dilemma is a gem. I can't praise it highly enough. It's lucid, deep, moving, smart. It's become my must-have bedside book, whose wisdom ends one day and begins the next. I passionately love it."
— Alanna Mitchell, author of Sea Sick
"Anyone who thinks a scientific understanding of nature takes the beauty and mystery out of life, should read this book! And here's a hint -- the ptarmigan's dilemma is also yours and mine, because misjudgment about living within our environmental limits can mean death for the bird, and us."
— Monte Hummel, President Emeritus, WWF-Canada.
"This book can be savored for both its passionate accounts of the natural world and the informative discussion of the principles that underlie life's order and regulation. Highly recommended for all lovers of nature."
— Library Journal