Wednesday, February 27, 2013
SUMMARY: Discover the biology, natural history, and diversity of geckos—the acrobatic little lizards made famous by a car insurance ad campaign. Lizard biologist and gecko expert Aaron Bauer answers deceptively simple questions with surprising and little-known facts. Readers can explore color photographs that reveal the natural wonder and beauty of the gecko form and are further informed by images of how geckos live in their natural habitats. Although written for nonexperts, Geckos also provides a carefully selected bibliography and a new list of all known species that will be of interest to herpetologists. Anyone who owns a gecko, has seen them in the wild, or has wondered about them will appreciate this gem of a book.
RECOMMENDATION: A good general introduction to the geckos.
2) Norman, Geoff. Buller's Birds of New Zealand: The Complete Work of JG Keulemans. 2012. Te Papa Press. Hardbound Folio in slipcase: 246 pages. Price: £99.99 / $125.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Buller’s Birds of New Zealand includes the complete set of 95 artworks from both editions of A History of the Birds of New Zealand by Walter Buller and the subsequent supplement, specially photographed and reproduced at original size and in full colour using high quality modern printing techniques. Each bird painting is accompanied by a selection of Buller’s original, descriptive text as well as up-to-date taxonomic information in English and te reo Māori.
Uniquely, Buller’s Birds of New Zealand features fresh reproductions of the original watercolour-and-pencil paintings for Buller’s iconic second edition and its supplement, made possible by the author’s rediscovery of these works at the Ornithological Branch of the British Natural History Museum. Bright, luminous and clear, Keulemans’ masterpieces are seen here for the first time as the artist intended.
Bound in cloth and beautifully presented in a slipcase, this edition at last makes available the masterpieces inside the rarely seen, and highly valued, original books.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those with an interest in the birds of New Zealand or are interested in bird art. The book is available here: http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/TePapaPress/FullCatalogue/NaturalHistory/Pages/BullersBirdsofNewZealand.aspx
SUMMARY: Mammals of Africa (MoA) is a series of six volumes which describes, in detail, every currently recognized species of African land mammal. This is the first time that such extensive coverage has ever been attempted, and the volumes incorporate the very latest information and detailed discussion of the morphology, distribution, biology and evolution (including reference to fossil and molecular data) of Africa's mammals. With 1,160 species and 16 orders, Africa has the greatest diversity and abundance of mammals in the world. The reasons for this and the mechanisms behind their evolution are given special attention in the series.
Each volume follows the same format, with detailed profiles of every species and higher taxa. The series includes some 660 colour illustrations by Jonathan Kingdon and his many drawings highlight details of morphology and behaviour of the species concerned. Diagrams, schematic details and line drawings of skulls and jaws are by Jonathan Kingdon and Meredith Happold. Every species also includes a detailed distribution map. Extensive references alert readers to more detailed information.
Volume I: Introductory Chapters and Afrotheria (352 pages)
Volume II: Primates (560 pages)
Volume III: Rodents, Hares and Rabbits (784 pages)
Volume IV: Hedgehogs, Shrews and Bats (800 pages)
Volume V: Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids and Rhinoceroses (560 pages)
Volume VI: Pigs, Hippopotamuses, Chevrotain, Giraffes, Deer and Bovids (704 pages)
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in the mammals of Africa. Unfortunately the price will be too much for most people, but a revised edition of Kingdon's Field Guide to African Mammals is in the works!
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
SUMMARY: Because Oregon sits on the leading edge of a moving crustal plate, a striking diversity of geologic events have molded its topography. Over a century of study, a deeper understanding of the region’s tectonic overprint has emerged. In this timely update to the 2000 edition, Elizabeth and William Orr incorporate that new knowledge, addressing current environmental problems and detailing tectonic hazards. “Caught between converging crustal plates,” the Orrs write, “the Pacific Northwest faces a future of massive earthquakes and tsunamis.”
A comprehensive treatment of the state’s geologic history, Oregon Geology moves through Oregon’s regions to closely examine the unique geologic features of each, from the Blue Mountains to the Willamette Valley, from the high lava Plains to the Coast Range.
The book includes biographical sketches of notable geologists. It is lavishly illustrated and includes an extensive bibliography.
RECOMMENDATION: A readable introduction to the geology of Oregon.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
SUMMARY: With backyard chicken keeping and urban farming at an all-time high, the proudest of purebred poultry take center stage once again in this fully revised and expanded edition of the classic The Fairest Fowl, now retitled The Magnificent Chicken. Updated in hardcover with even more chickens and an enlarged resource section, this celebration of the wonder, peculiarity, and magnificence of championship chickens showcases more than 40 astonishing breeds in glamorous photos—many brand new—and informative text, while an introduction by Ira Glass explores the finer points of poultry shows and chicken portraiture.
RECOMMENDATION: Chicken fans will enjoy this book.
SUMMARY: Darwin: A Graphic Biography is an inspiring expedition into the physical and intellectual adventures of Charles Darwin. Presenting Darwin's life in a smart and entertaining graphic novel, Darwin: A Graphic Biography attempts to not only educate the reader about Darwin but also the scientific world of the 1800s. The graphic medium is ideal for recreating a very specific time frame, succeeding in placing the reader right next to a young Darwin on a "beetling" expedition. With specimens in both hands, and eager to get another, Darwin ends up stuffing the third beetle into his mouth. Darwin's life presented in this form is an inspirational tale for kids of all ages. They'll be sure to identify with a curious young Darwin finding his way on youthful adventures in the fields near his house. The ups, downs, and near-misses of Darwin's youth are portrayed honestly and without foreshadowing of later fame. This is a key point for younger readers: that Darwin wasn't somehow predestined to greatness. He was curious, patient, and meticulous. He persevered--a great lesson about what science is all about.
RECOMMENDATION: For ages 12 and up.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
SUMMARY: Hundreds of species of mushrooms flourish in Texas, from the desert and semiarid regions of West Texas to the moist and acid soils of East Texas, where species that can also be found in South America live alongside those that might be spotted in Malaysia and Europe. Texas Mushrooms was the first—and is still the only—guide to all of the state’s mushrooms.
This colorful, easy-to-follow book (now back in print with a new cover and preface) will surprise and delight uninitiated nature enthusiasts while also supplying the experienced mushroom hunter with expert identification information. Excellent color photographs and precise descriptions of over 200 species will enable the mushroom hunter—even the amateur—to make quick, careful, easy distinctions between the edible varieties and the potentially toxic ones. In addition, kitchen-tested recipes are included, along with charts giving spore sizes and a list of recommended further reading.
In Texas, mushroom hunting can be a year-round, state-wide activity, and with this enticing field guide, collecting, identifying, and preparing wild mushrooms will become an activity the entire family can enjoy while appreciating the beauty of Texas from a new and fascinating angle.
RECOMMENDATION: Texas mushroomers will want this book.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Thursday, February 14, 2013
SUMMARY: Freeway Birding author Harry G. Fuller is an unrelentingly devoted birder, and for over two decades he has shared his passion by leading field trips in California, Oregon and Washington.
In his new book, Harry reaches out to the frustrated freeway-traveling birder with a little time to spare on the way from here to there, from a few extra minutes to a few extra hours. Learn how and where to find the birds within a few miles of the freeway corridor, so that one or more short stints of birding can be easily worked into your otherwise uninspiring interstate travels.
RECOMMENDATION: A useful general birding guide to the region, but I don't think it will replace the more detailed regional birding guides.
SUMMARY: It is not surprising that Australian grassfinches are highly popular with ornithologists and aviculturists, for included among the species are one of the most beautiful of all birds – the Gouldian Finch Erythrura gouldiae – and one of the most familiar cagebirds – the Zebra Finch Taeniopygia guttata.
Despite a scarcity in published works on finches, interest in the species is growing, leading to a dramatic advancement in our knowledge of many species. For example, we have gained new information from field observations carried out on little-known species, including the Blue-faced Parrot-Finch Erythrura trichroa and the Red-eared Firetail Stagonopleura oculata. Significant advances in taxonomic research, largely as a consequence of the development and refinement of biochemical analyses, often involving DNA-DNA hybridisation, have given us a new insight into relationships among species, with some unexpected alliances being determined. Additionally, dramatic changes have taken place in avicultural practices, and in virtually all countries aviculture has taken on a new professional approach, with the most notable results being increased productivity and success with a wider variety of species.
After a lapse of almost half a century since publication of Klaus Immelmann’s eminent work on finches, based on extensive field studies, the time has come for a new examination of Australian grassfinches. In Grassfinches in Australia, Joseph Forshaw, Mark Shephard and Anthony Pridham have summarised our present knowledge of each species, and have given readers a visual appreciation of the birds in their natural habitats and in aviculture. The resulting combination of superb artwork and scientifically accurate text ensures that this volume will become the standard reference work on Australian grassfinches. In addition to enabling aviculturists to know more about these finches in the wild as a guide to their own husbandry techniques, detailed information on current management practices for all species in captivity is provided. The book also includes colour plates depicting some of the more common mutations held in Australian and overseas collections.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
SUMMARY: Among the most fascinating animals in the world's oceans are the more than 2,000 species of starfish. Called "Asteroids" by scientists who study them (after their taxonomic name, Asteroidea)—or sea stars in some parts of the world—starfish are easily recognized because of their star-like form. Starfish is a comprehensive volume devoted to the integrative and comparative biology and ecology of starfish.
Written by the world's leading experts on starfish, the integrative section covers topics such as reproduction, developmental biology and ecology, larval ecology, and the ecological role of starfish as a group. The comparative section considers the biology and ecology of important species such as Acanthaster planci, Heliaster helianthoides, Asterias amurensis, and Pisaster ochraceus.
Replete with detailed, scientifically accurate illustrations and the latest research findings, Starfish examines the important role of these invertebrates in the marine environment, a topic of great interest because of their impact on the food web. As major predators that are able to evert their stomach and wrap it around their prey, starfish can have a significant impact on commercial fisheries.
Starfish are of interest not only to echinoderm specialists but also to marine biologists and invertebrate zoologists in general and, increasingly, to the medical community. A starfish's ability to regenerate body parts is almost unequalled in the animal world, making them ideal models for basic science studies on the topic.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in starfish biology.
SUMMARY: This extensively revised second edition is one of the best state treatments for herps, by one of the foremost authorities. The shaded range maps make it a useful reference for eastern North America.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in the herpetofauna of Indiana.
Monday, February 11, 2013
SUMMARY: Spiders are among the most diverse groups of terrestrial invertebrates, yet they are among the least studied and understood. This first comprehensive guide to all 68 spider families in North America beautifully illustrates 469 of the most commonly encountered species. Group keys enable identification by web type and other observable details, and species descriptions include identification tips, typical habitat, geographic distribution, and behavioral notes. A concise illustrated introduction to spider biology and anatomy explains spider relationships. This book is a critical resource for curious naturalists who want to understand this ubiquitous and ecologically critical component of our biosphere.
RECOMMENDATION: Despite some organizational problems, people with an interest in North American spiders should enjoy this book.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Monday, February 4, 2013
SUMMARY: This third edition of James R. Dixon’s Amphibians and Reptiles of Texas: With Keys, Taxonomic Synopses, Bibliography, and Distribution Maps, completely redesigned throughout with color photographs, revised taxonomic keys, and updated species descriptions, covers more than two hundred species of amphibians and reptiles. As in the previous editions, the book includes an extensive listing of the literature on Texas amphibians and reptiles that goes back to the historic writings of Berlandier, in the early nineteenth century, and is updated to reflect the most recent research. Comprehensive distribution maps, updated references, and an exhaustive bibliography round out this latest edition of what has come to be widely recognized as the standard scientific guide and reference for professional, academic, and amateur naturalists interested in the herpatofauna of Texas.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with an interest in the amphibians and reptiles of Texas!
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Saturday, February 2, 2013
SUMMARY: A fascinating introduction to the weirdest life-forms known to science—and the maverick scientists who search for them.
In recent years, scientists at the frontiers of biology have hypothesized the existence of life-forms that can only be called “weird”: organisms that live off acid rather than water, microbes that thrive at temperatures and pressure levels so extreme that their cellular structures should break down, perhaps even organisms that reproduce without DNA. The search for these strange life-forms spans the universe, from rock surfaces in the American southwest and hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor to Martian permafrost, the ammonia oceans of Jupiter’s moons, the hydrogen-rich atmospheres of giant planets, the exotic ices on comets, the crusts of neutron stars, and the vast reaches of space itself.
David Toomey brings us into the world of the researchers who have devoted their careers to “weird life,” and as they envision and discover ever stranger organisms here on earth, they open up fascinating possibilities for the discovery of life in the rest of the universe.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with an interest in extremophiles and/or exobiology.
SUMMARY: "You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . ."
All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.
Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.
Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.
RECOMMENDATION: Dragonologists should enjoy this book.