30 March 2006

Adventures in Beringia

Beringia is the land connection that existed between Alaska and the northeastern Asia during the last ice ages when the global sea level was more than 100 m lower than its present level. It was because of Beringia that the same species of animals and plants now live on both sides of the Bering Sea and that the ancestors of Native Americans were able to migrate from Asia to North America. The past land connections between North America and Asia interest me, because some species of land snails, for example, Zoogenetes harpa, may have used such bridges to migrate between the 2 continents.

brng2The last giant of Beringia, by Dan O’Neill, is about the scientists who have studied Beringia and how they have put together the pieces of the puzzle to develop our current knowledge of this very interesting part of the earth. Actually, the title refers to one particular person, the geologist Dave Hopkins (1921-2001), who devoted his life to the study of the Holocene geology of Alaska. There are also almost entire chapters about others, including the Swedish botanist Eric Hultén and the American archeologist Louis Giddings. The accounts of their field trips are all fascinating, but I wish the overall story was presented more coherently. Many others entered and left the story, often making me forget about Hopkins. The couple of chapters on Native Americans at the end could also have been left out. The origins of Native Americans, a fascinating subject on its own, and although closely tied in with Beringia, doesn’t quite fit into this book.

Nevertheless, I did learn quite a bit from this book. And although it is for the general readers, the book ends with a long list of references to the scientific literature that would be very helpful for those interested in learning more.

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is now on my list of places to visit, if I can only figure out how to get there.

1 comment:

pascal said...

Count me in!