Monday, July 30, 2012
1) McNab, Brian K.. Extreme Measures: The Ecological Energetics of Birds and Mammals. 2012. University of Chicago Press. Paperback: 312 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: Along with reproduction, balancing energy expenditure with the limits of resource acquisition is essential for both a species and a population to survive. But energy is a limited resource, as we know well, so birds and mammals—the most energy-intensive fauna on the planet—must reduce energy expenditures to maintain this balance, some taking small steps, and others extreme measures.
Here Brian K. McNab draws on his over sixty years in the field to provide a comprehensive account of the energetics of birds and mammals, one fully integrated with their natural history. McNab begins with an overview of thermal rates—much of our own energy is spent maintaining our 98.6?F temperature—and explains how the basal rate of metabolism drives energy use, especially in extreme environments. He then explores those variables that interact with the basal rate of metabolism, like body size and scale and environments, highlighting their influence on behavior, distribution, and even reproductive output. Successive chapters take up energy and population dynamics and evolution. A critical central theme that runs through the book is how the energetic needs of birds and mammals come up against rapid environmental change and how this is hastening the pace of extinction.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in animal physiology.
2) Patterson, Bruce D. and Leonora P. Costa (editors). Bones, Clones, and Biomes: The History and Geography of Recent Neotropical Mammals. 2012. University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 419 pages. Price: $65.00 U.S.
SUMMARY: As explorers and scientists have known for decades, the Neotropics harbor a fantastic array of our planet’s mammalian diversity, from capybaras and capuchins to maned wolves and mouse opossums to sloths and sakis. This biological bounty can be attributed partly to the striking diversity of Neotropical landscapes and climates and partly to a series of continental connections that permitted intermittent faunal exchanges with Africa, Antarctica, Australia, and North America. Thus, to comprehend the development of modern Neotropical mammal faunas requires not only mastery of the Neotropics’ substantial diversity, but also knowledge of mammalian lineages and landscapes dating back to the Mesozoic.
Bones, Clones, and Biomes offers just that—an exploration of the development and relationships of the modern mammal fauna through a series of studies that encompass the last 100 million years and both Central and South America. This work serves as a complement to more taxonomically driven works, providing for readers the long geologic and biogeographic contexts that undergird the abundance and diversity of Neotropical mammals. Rather than documenting diversity or distribution, this collection traverses the patterns that the distributions and relationships across mammal species convey, bringing together for the first time geology, paleobiology, systematics, mammalogy, and biogeography. Of critical importance is the book’s utility for current conservation and management programs, part of a rapidly rising conservation paleobiology initiative.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a technical interest in mammalian biogeography.