Saturday, June 30, 2012
1) Berta, Annalisa. Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals. 2012. University of California Press. Hardbound: 205 pages. Price: $44.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Return to the Sea portrays the life and evolutionary times of marine mammals—from giant whales and sea cows that originated 55 million years ago to the deep diving elephant seals and clam-eating walruses of modern times. This fascinating account of the origin of various marine mammal lineages, some extinct, others extant but threatened, is for the non-specialist. Set against a backdrop of geologic time, changing climates, and changing geography, evolution is the unifying principle that helps us to understand the present day diversity of marine mammals and their responses to environmental challenges. Annalisa Berta explains current controversies and explores patterns of change taking place today, such as shifting food webs and predator-prey relationships, habitat degradation, global warming, and the effects of humans on marine mammal communities.
RECOMMENDATION: A good introduction to marine mammal evolution.
2) Elbroch, Mark, Michael Kresky, and Jonah Evans. Field Guide to Animal Tracks and Scat of California. 2012. University of California Press. Paperback: 395 pages. Price: $34.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: Spotting an animal’s fresh footprints in the wild can conjure a world for the hiker: Why did the deer tracks disappear? Where did the cougar turn off the trail? What does it mean when two sets of footprints seem to coincide? This beautifully illustrated field guide, the first devoted to the tracks and signs of California animals—including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates like spiders and beetles—blends meticulous science with field experience to provide an engaging companion for both armchair exploration and easy field identification. Filled with useful tools for the wildlife expert, and essential background and visual aids for the novice, including in-depth information about the ecology of each species, this book goes beyond basic recognition of types to interpret what animals leave behind as a way of “seeing” how they move through the world.
RECOMMENDATION: California naturalists will want this book!
3) Estes, Richard Despard. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates. 1992 (reprinted 2012). Paperback: 611 pages. Price: $39.95 U.S.
SUMMARY: The Behavior Guide to African Mammals is as different from a conventional field guide as motion pictures are from a snapshot. Whether we are able to look at them face to face, on television, or in the hundreds of illustrations provided here by Daniel Otte, this guide allows us to understand what animals do and what their behavior means.
Drawing on his own extensive fieldwork and on the research of many other scientists, Richard Despard Estes describes and explains the behavior of four major groups of mammals. Estes's remarkably informative guide is as up-to-date (as of 1992) for the zoologist as it is accessible for the interested onlooker.
RECOMMENDATION: This classic volume is now available again on its 20th anniversary!
4) Sandercock, Brett K., Kathy Martin, and Gernot Segelbacher (editors). Ecology, Conservation, and Management of Grouse (Studies in Avian Biology, 39). 2011. University of California Press. Hardbound: 356 pages. Price: $70.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Grouse—an ecologically important group of birds that include capercaillie, prairie chickens, and ptarmigan—are distributed throughout the forests, grasslands, and tundra of Europe, Asia, and North America. Today, many grouse populations are in decline, and the conservation and management of these charismatic birds is becoming a global concern. This volume summarizes current knowledge of grouse biology in 25 chapters contributed by 80 researchers from field studies around the world. Organized in four sections—Spatial Ecology, Habitat Relationships, Population Biology, and Conservation and Management—the chapters offer important insights into spatial requirements, movements, and demography of grouse. Much of the research employs emerging tools in ecology that span biogeochemistry, molecular genetics, endocrinology, radio-telemetry, and remote sensing. The chapters explore topics including the impacts of climate change, energy development, and harvest, and give new evidence for life-history changes in response to human activities.
RECOMMENDATION: Grouse biologists, especially those studying "prairie and sage grouse" will find this book useful.