Academic Press

Academic Press have their own home page and if you want to know more about these books you can visit them at Academic Press



The Titles

T Ĵ AD Poyser

The History of British Mammals by Derek Yalden
Long-eared Bats by Susan M. Swift
The Hippos by S.K. Eltringham
The Atlas of the European Mammals by A. J. Mithcell-Jones et al.

Academic Press

The Kingdom Field Guide to African Mammals, by Jonathon Kingdom
Marine Mammals: Evolutionary Biology by Annalisa Berta and James L. Sumich
Handbook of Marine Mammals: Vol 6: by Sam H. Ridgeway and Sir Richard Harrison.
Field Guide to the Mammals of the Indian Subcontinent, by K.K. Gurung and Raj Singh

The Reviews

The Kingdom Field Guide to African Mammals

by Jonathon Kingdom

ISBN = 0 12 408355 2
Price = $29.95 HBk
Published = 2001
Review written = 09/April/2001
476 pages

This is a delightful book, one I will treasure considerably, especially when visiting Africa. I must admit to being in awe of the authors talents, not only has he made himself an expert on a huge number of animals but he is an accomplished artist as well. It is this combination of reliable data with the excellent images and the coherence that comes with a single author work that will make this book a success for years to come.

There are currently 1151 species of mammals living on the African continent. This is about one quarter of all the mammals in the world which explains why Africa is the prime destination for mammal watchers from around the world. The book lists every species, but it would be an exaggeration to say it would allow for the identification of them all, though you could get most specimens to family and even to genus if you had them in hand. However even the dedicated naturalist will only see a small proportion of this 1151 species and most, if not all the ones a casual visitor will see are illustrated in this work, the only two groups to give serious problems are the Bats and smaller Rodents.

Of the 1151 species 480 are illustrated in colour and 460 have distribution maps, the remaining species have brief text descriptions of form and distribution and in some cases B/W illustrations. The book includes a brief introduction to Africa as a habitat for mammals as well as a checklist of species (though species are sometimes only listed in the body of the work), an index to scientific names, and an index to common names.

All in all I was impressed with both the latest in classification, though he appears to have missed the news that DNA analysis of the Forest Elephant has shown it to be a separate species, and the high quality of his illustrations. A highly desirable work, worth more than its current price tag.

Return to the Titles

Return to The Book Review Page

Long-eared Bats

by Susan M. Swift

ISBN = 0 85661 110 7
Price = $29.95 HBk
Published = 1999
Review written = 07/November/2000
304 pages

The book begins the history of British mammals, with the beginning of the mammals per se 200, million years ago, which as the earliest know mammal fossils are currently British, is only reasonable. However so little is know about the early mammals and as Britain was not Britain then, the first 150 million years (MY)is covered in a mere 12 pages or so. The closer we move towards the present the more detailed information we have available and so the more there is that the author can offer us. The majority of the book is concerned with the last 15 000 years, more than half of it is occupied with the last 2 000 years and the 20 century gets 35 pages to itself.

The book is fascinating, well researched and well written, Derek Yalden has an enviable ability to present a large amount of information very concisely. Often the author will discuss various interpretations of the available data. Though he obviously has his own ideas he is careful not to present them as facts. the history of the last few thousand years, with the disappearance of the Irish Elk, Wild Horse and Auroch through to the last wolves and bears makes fascinating reading.

The book also deals with introduced species, and the history of introduced mammals is another fascinating read. How many people know that the rabbit we British so erroneously introduced into Australia a few centuries ago was also and introduction to the UK from southern Europe. After this the book takes a good look at island races in chapter eight. The book ends with an excellent chapter on the future of mammals in Britain. This sadly tells us of the inevitable loss of the Red Deer through hybridisation with the smaller introduced Sika deer, as well as discussing the possibilities, in a positive light, of mammalian reintroductions. Could we successfully return to having bears and wolves in the UK.

All in all an excellent book, a thoroughly enjoyable and informative read, highly recommended.

Return to the Titles

Return to The Book Review Page

Long-eared Bats

by Susan M. Swift

ISBN = 0 85661 108 5
Price = $24.95 HBk
Published = 1998
Review written = 22/October/2000
182 pages
13 colour plates

Bats represent nearly one quarter of all mammals and thus out number all other mammal groups except the rodents, yet the are poorly represented in the literature. As their popularity with the public has increased over the last decade or so a few reasonable general introductions to them as a group have been published, though the literature includes very few monographs. The publication then of this book was much welcomed and we could do with many more like it.

Long-eared bats are not a large group, and this book is primarily concerned with the two European species; the Brown Long-eared Bat (Plecotus auritus) and the Grey Long-eared Bat (Plecotus austriacus). Reference is made occasionally to the other two Plecotus species and more regularly to the 3 American species of Corynhorinus, which until recently were included in the genus Plecotus.

The book is well written and covers all the areas of the bats biology that either an interested amateur or a research professional could be interested in. The only disappointment for me was a lack of reference to bats in a historical perspective, but perhaps this would have been out of place in a book dealing with such a small percentage of the worlds total bat fauna.

The book is adequately illustrated with 13 colour plates and a number of fine b/w illustrations. A good idea of the scope of the book can be gained by browsing through the chapter headings. 1)Who's who - an introduction to long-eared bats ;2)Recognition and design features ;3)Gleaning and diet ;4)Foraging behaviour ;5)Reproduction ;6)Social organisation and behaviour ;7)Population biology ;8)Hibernation ; 9)Long-eared bats and humans. The book ends with 20 pages of references and 3 appendices: 1)Scientific and common names of bat species mentioned; 2)Care of stranded or injured bats; 3)Useful contact addresses in the UK.

All in all a pleasurable and informative read which I can enjoy recommending to all and sundry.

Return to the Titles

Return to The Book Review Page

The Hippos

by S. K. Eltringham

ISBN = 0 85661 131 X
Price = $27.95 HBk
Published = 1999
Review written = 12/October/2000
184 pages
8 B/W plates

Hippos are commonly recognised and well known animals, like elephants and giraffes, hippos are easily identified and every child knows they live in Africa. They are frequently seen in the background of many African river scenes on TV and are popular attractions in many zoos. Hippo toys and cartoons are easy to find, they are a regular aspect of our society. However very little is generally known about their biology. This is partly a result of the paucity of information available in the literature, which often consists of a few repeated facts and a lot of images. A few general facts about the larger species of Hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) are available in a number of works on Mammals, Africa or both. There was however, before the publication of this book, no serious attempt to record all that is know about these well loved and fascinating animals.

Here however is everything you could possibly want to know about both the extant species of Hippo. From in depth descriptions of their anatomy, through physiology, feeding and reproductive ecology, interactions with man, the environment and other animals to distribution and conservation and on to the fossil record. All of it well written and easily accessible in this delightful little book about a big animal.

The book is aimed at the general reader who has an interest in the subject, though factually it is rigorous enough to be of use to undergraduates. Eltringham's style is easy to read, making the book, not only informative, but a real pleasure to read. It is illustrated with 8 B/W photos as well as a number of good quality B/W illustrations, maps and graphs.

All in all this is an excellent addition to the literature, which I can highly recommend to anyone with even a slight interest in the world of the hippopotamus.

Return to the Titles

Return to The Book Review Page

The Atlas of European Mammals

by A. J. Mitchell-Jones, G. Amori, W. Bogdanowicz, B. Krystufek, P. J. H. Reijnders, F. Spitzenberger, M. Stubbe, J. B. M. Thissen, V. Vohralík and J. Zima

ISBN = 0 85661 130 1
Price = $37.50 HBk
Published = 1999
Review written = 14/September/2000
484 A4 pages

Like all Poyser publications this is an excellent book with a pleasant feel to it. It is also very informative, and useful, it is the sort of work you find yourself referring to time and again once you have a copy of it. It sets out to document the living mammal populations of Europe, discounting the domestic species and forms which are already well documented. It achieves this aim well.

Europe, as defined for the purposes of this book extends from the UK as far east as Western Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania in the south and Hungary, Poland Estonia and Latvia further north. This is a reasonable choice of boundaries as it is in accordance with the study area of the new Fauna Europea project. This means it includes 33 different countries, the problems of correlating the reports from such a vast array of different societies must have been considerable. However the project has been well organised, and though the records from some countries, are of necessity, more complete than from others the maps will show a good baseline for future research and recording. Points on the maps are recorded as; species reliably reported since 1970 and species reported prior to 1970 and reasonably presumed to be still present. The maps are large and clear.

The mammals included number 194 species and do not include Whales, dolphins or Porpoises. Each species is illustrated in B/W and has its own map. Each species is named in each of the 33 languages involved, this is not as cumbersome as you may think. Otherwise information is supplied on: Distribution (World-wide and in Europe); Geographic variation; Population status; International legal and conservation status; Habitat; Other information; Literature.

The book also includes a checklist of species, an explanation of how the book came about, including notes on the current state of knowledge in each of the countries included. All in all this is an amazing book which has been well produced and will supply any naturalist with hours of fun, as well as being an able assistance to students.

Return to the Titles

Return to The Book Review Page

Marine Mammals: Evolutionary Biology

by Annalisa Berta and James L. Sumich.

ISBN = 0 12 093225 3
Price = $39.95 HBk
Published = 1999
Review written = 28/September/2000
494 pages

Marine mammals are enjoying an increasing degree of popularity. There are many books about them on the market at the moment. Of all those I have seen offering an introduction to their ecology this is the best value for money. While not attempting to compete with more complete works like the 6 volume "Handbook of Marine Mammals", or with the numerous guides to marine mammals that are available, this book fills an important niche in the literature.

This book takes a good look at the various behavioural and morphological adaptations that have fitted some or all of the members of the 3 orders of mammals (Carnivora, Cetacea and Sirenia) for life in our seas and oceans. The authors approach is, as suggested by the title, oriented towards enhancing our understanding of the evolutionary aspects of these adaptations. To help with this the text includes a good introduction to the methods and mechanisms of modern cladistic systematics and classification.

Part 1 - Evolutionary History, introduces the ideas behind the science and the animals involved, including a good analysis of the fossil record. Part 11 deals with the various adaptations, looking at each strategy in a general way and at how it applies to the various ordinal and familial groupings. The book is well written and illustrated with a variety of B/W drawings, graphs, maps and photographs. This book is designed as an undergraduate text, but anyone with a serious interest in marine mammals will find it both readable and highly informative. There is no other book on the market with both its depth and expertise. The bibliography is included at the end of each chapter.

Chapter Headings include: 1) Introduction; 2) Systematics and Classification; 3) Pinniped Evolution and Systematics; 4) Cetacean Evolution and Systematics; 5) Sirenians and other Marine Mammals: Evolution and Systematics; 6) Evolutionary Biogeography; 7) Integumentary, Sensory, and Urinary Systems; 8) Musculoskeletal Systems and Locomotion; 9) Respiration, Diving, and Breath-Hold Physiology; 10) Sound Production for Communication, Echolocation, and Prey Capture; 11) ;Diet, Foraging Structures, and Strategies 12) Mating, Breeding, and Social Organisation; 13) Reproductive Structures, Patterns, and Strategies; 14) Population Structure and Population Dynamics; 15) Exploitation and Conservation; Appendix:- Classification of Marine Mammals; Glossary, Index.

Return to the Titles

Return to The Book Review Page

Field Guide to the Mammals of the Indian Subcontinent

by K.K. Gurung and Raj Singh

ISBN = 0 12 309350 3
Price = $17.50 HBk
Published = 1996
Review written = 28/August/2000
140 pages
12 colour plates, 12 B/W plates, 23 maps

If you are going to the Indian subcontinent with the intention of spending anytime watching wildlife or visiting National Parks then you will want a copy of this book amongst you literature. Written in English and obviously aimed at the tourist it is a real gem at £17.50.

Sensibly it does not include many of the smaller mammals, notably the rodents and the bats are absent. This reduces the number of animals to be dealt with by over half and keeps the work a manageable Field Guide size. It describes and illustrates 106 species ranging in size from Indian Elephants to Royal's Pika. The 12 colour plates by Zillah Richards and K.K. Gurung are fine, though not excellent, and should well serve their purpose as aids to identification. Each plate contains a number of species and one or two scale bars for quick size comparisons, thus each species is illustrated. Each illustration is labelled with both a common and a scientific name and a page number to turn to for further information. This further information includes data on: Identification; Habitat; Range; Behaviour; Diet; Breeding; Status and Similar species. Following the colour plates are 12 B/W plates depicting hoof or paw prints of many of the mammals described, a boon for the naturalist slooth. The book also contains an index to the mammals, a checklist of species and a small but relevant bibliography.

If this is not enough for you then you will be glad to hear that this is only the first half of the book. The 2nd half contains an a guide to 23 National Parks including a map of the park and an inset showing the location of the park within the confines of the Indian subcontinent. The data supplied concerning each park includes, a history of the park (when it was set up etc.), its exact location including instructions on how to get there, nearby accommodation, access information and advice on the best time to visit as well as a summary of the habitats included and a list of the mammals found within the park, some reference is made also to other wildlife.

All in all this appears to be a well thought out and well produced book with a reasonable price tag. I plan on using my copy exhaustively when I visit India in 2001 and may add to this review after that experience. But until then this has my full recommendation.

Return to the Titles

Return to The Book Review Page

Handbook of Marine Mammals: Vol 6

The Second Book of Dolphins and Porpoises by Sam H. Ridgeway and Sir Richard Harrison

ISBN = 0 12 588506 7
Price = $64.95 HBk
Published = 1999
Review written = 20/August/2000
486 pages

This is the last volume in this exhaustive and informative series. Unfortunately most of the preceding 5 volumes are now out of print, so if this is the first book in this series you have come across you will have to be visiting 2nd hand shops to fill the shelf.

Marine mammals are increasing consistently in popularity. Fortunately this mirrors a growing awareness of our close relationship to all all mammals and an appreciation of the uniqueness of the intelligence of many marine mammals in particular. These volumes are not about asking moral questions in relationship to marine mammals, they simply supply us with all the up-to-date information that is available. However this information, and in many cases our growing awareness of how little we really know, must lead us to question the morality and long term realism of failing to protect them. Humanity is a two edged sword,it is up to us to choose whether we enrich or degrade the world we live in. Procrastination is simply choosing to degrade while closing our eyes in the hope we will not see what we have become, positive action is the only living choice.

Anyway on with the review. This is an excellent conclusion to a worthy series. It is a scholarly work, as are all in this series, in that it is fully referenced throughout, which tends to make it a research volume rather than an evening read. This volume deals with 8 Dolphins, 3 Whales, and 6 Porpoises, for actual species see chapter headings below. Each chapter contains a wealth of information on:- identification, taxonomy, evolution, habitat preferences, distribution, mortality factors, beachings, diet, reproduction, populations and abundance, behaviour, live captivity records as well as a variety of physical parametres. Each chapter includes a distribution map, photos of the whole animal and in many cases photos of the skull as well.

Chapter Headings include:-White-beaked Dolphin; Atlantic White-sided Dolphin; Pacific White-sided Dolphin; Dusky Dolphin; Peale's Dolphin; Hourglass Dolphin; Bottlenose Dolphin; Risso's Dolphin; False Killer Whale; Pilot Whale; Harbour Porpoise; Vaquita; Spectacled Porpoise; Burmeister's Porpoise; Finless Porpoise; Dall's Porpoise.

All in all a well produced book in a well produced series that will without doubt be the definitive work on marine mammals for many years to come.

Highly Recommended

Return to the Titles

Return to The Book Review Page


  © Earth-Life Web Productions