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Artist Isabella Kirkland's painting "Descendant Species" graces the cover of Edward O. Wilson's THE FUTURE OF LIFE. The author and artist have worked to provide readers with an interactive version of the painting- move your cursor over any highlighted animal or plant and learn more about the species.

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EDWARD O. WILSON:

Isabella Kirkland's "Descendant Species" is a rainbow bouquet of plant and animal species diverse in their beauty and human interest. Unfortunately, the real-life bouquet is fading. All the species depicted in the painting are extremely rare. Several, such as Costa Rica's golden toad, are evidently extinct. If we are to be effective stewards of earth's remaining life (the creation of religious conception) it will help to look at these and other species living on the edge in a more appreciative manner: not just as elements in a statistical ensemble but as unique entities worthy of detailed study. Each has a geologically long history, in many cases exceeding that of our own species, and each is biologically distinct, with its own place in the ecosystem to which it is--or at least was before humanity came along--exquisitely adapted. To search for the last members of a retreating species and learn more about it is an adventure. To protect it is a moral obligation, too long postponed.

ISABELLA KIRKLAND:

In the original of this painting each species is depicted life-sized. Oil paintings can endure, as a time-capsule against a future that may lack some of these rare plants and animals. Classical Dutch still lifes provide us with a record of plants and animals that were considered new and exotic in Europe in the 1600's. Many still lifes have an allegory behind the image: the stories behind these species tell of our place within and profound effect upon the rest of the natural world.



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