The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

By John Kricher | Go to book overview

12
Taking It from the Top–or
the Bottom

On my thus far one and only trip to Africa, my group was observing the African megafauna at a wondrous place, the great Serengeti of Tanzania. It was late in the afternoon, nearly dinnertime, and we were driving along searching especially for large cats. What we came upon was a lone wildebeest calf, apparently separated from its mother and now abandoned, standing on a mudflat next to a lake. Few things look more pathetic than a baby herd animal whose herd is nowhere in sight. It stood alone bleating. I doubt it was happy. Soon we realized that it was, in fact, not alone. A single lioness appeared from dense shrubbery nearby and slowly began walking across the mudflat directly toward the little wildebeest. Some in my group wanted to leave, not wishing to bear witness to the spectacle that was presumably about to ensue. Others of us, me included, wanted to remain, knowing full well what nature really is and what happens in nature on a daily basis. We remained. I caught an oddly bemused look in the eyes of our two guides. Malidi and Stephen knew something that we didn't. The lioness continued toward the calf and then I noticed the cat's ample belly swaying back and forth as it walked. Pregnant? No, just full. She wasn't hungry. Lions kill to eat and eat to live, so when they are not hungry they are not interested, not even in baby wildebeests. As Stephen and Malidi smiled broadly, the lioness scarcely looked at the lonely calf, walking within a few meters of it. She continued into a clump of shrubs. And what of the

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The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Why It Matters 1
  • 2: Of What Purpose Are Mosquitoes? 8
  • 3: Creating Paradigms 20
  • 4: Ecology B.C. (“before Charles”) 40
  • 5: Ecology A.D. (“after Darwin”) 53
  • 6: The Twentieth Century Ecology Comes of Age 67
  • 7: A Visit to Bodie Ecological Space and Time 84
  • 8: Ecology and Evolution Process and Paradigm 97
  • 9: Be Glad to Be an Earthling 113
  • 10: Life Plays the Lottery 128
  • 11: Why Global Climate is like New England Weather 140
  • 12: Taking It from the Top–or the Bottom 155
  • 13: For the Love of Biodiversity (And Stable Ecosystems?) 170
  • 14: Facing Marley's Ghost 186
  • Epilogue 203
  • Acknowledgments 207
  • Notes 209
  • Index 229
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