Ghosts of Gondwana: the history of life in New Zealand.

Ghosts of Gondwana: the history of life in New Zealand. G. Gibbs.

Nelson: Craig Potton Publishing, 2007. reprint). Octavo, colour photographs, other illustrations. Owner's stamp, fine copy in dustwrapper.

New Zealand is an extraordinary place, unique on Earth, and the remarkable story of how and why life evolved here is the subject of Ghosts of Gondwana. The science that traces the history of life on Earth is called historical biogeography and it is the theme of this book. Biogeography is a wide-ranging study, involving geology, genetics and biology. There are no departments of it and no professors, but to understand 'what lives where and why' it is necessary to probe the cutting edge of fields as disparate as continental drift and the inner secrets of the magic DNA molecule. Although we are blessed in New Zealand with many descriptive books about our birds, plants, landscapes and conservation issues, there is currently no up-to-date, book that explains the origin of our life. George Gibbs' very accessible story summarises exciting new research which leads to an understanding of where our fauna and flora came from and how they evolved to become some of the strangest in the world. It also reveals the landmark events in our deep history which have moulded the life of today and presents a balanced view of the arguments which accompany this type of speculative science. Ghosts of Gondwana is a highly readable and engaging book. Heavily illustrated with photographs and diagrams, this is popular science writing at its best. As the only contemporary book on this subject, it will undoubtedly become essential reading for anyone interested in New Zealand's natural history.

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