Every damn kid in the U.S., son of cabbie or Catholic, knows and cares about dinosaurs. But few have heard of gomphotheres, which lived here much more recently.
In the late summer, this North American elephant — along with some of its contemporaries, like American camels, cheetahs, lions, and giant tortoises — crept into the minds of many Americans, as the press reported on a proposal put forth by my colleagues and me to bring large animals back to North America.
Our big idea brought an even bigger response from the press, public, and scientific community. It was a wild week of knee-jerking, gasps, and groans — mixed with some joyful salutations and celebratory fists in the air. Much of the press got it wrong; a few got it so right. Many scientists fired off emails and rebuttals; fewer apparently actually sat down and carefully read the paper before firing.
The public took their corners too. This became clear, crystal, as my inbox filled up with hundreds of emails. “What a fantastic idea … how can I help?” many asked. But others were decidedly less supportive. One advis... Read more