Bats are beautiful and fascinating animals about which we still have much to learn. However over the last two decades the pace and quality of research has increased and it is appropriate that this text has been published as an ongoing step in the accumulation of our knowledge.
In fifteen chapters a selection of professional bat ecologists present the latest data in, and discuss, their areas of expertise. In this way a great deal of information, and many important new ideas are made available. On the whole the book is well written, although some chapters are better presented than others.
The book is aimed at university researchers and students and as such it is written in a scientific manner with all the citations that this entails. Each chapter is individually referenced and complete on its own. This makes the book one you turn to when you want some specific information rather than one you read just because you like bats.
One problem which annoyed me was the failure of certain chapters to agree on how many families, let alone species, of bats there are, this problem existed not only between papers but, in one instance, within a paper as well. Mostly however the papers are as rigorous as you would expect with those on 'bats and insects' and 'bats and flowers' being particularly to my liking. I was also very happy with the completeness of the discussion in the chapter on bats and disease transmission. In Europe now you are unlikely to be allowed to work with bats unless you have had your rabies inoculations following the death of a bat-worker in England a few years ago.
A broad range of subjects are included in the fifteen chapters; the first part of the book is is focused on life history traits and behavioural ecology and the second part of the book looks more closely at aspects of functional ecology; see chapter headings below.
All in all I expect this book will be of greatest use to students, particularly graduate students and beyond to professional researchers all around the world. There is a great deal of information collected here which is not otherwise easily available.
On a final note I was pleased to see that the price is more than reasonable for such a specialist, and comprehensive book. I also commend the publishers and authors for their decision to forego their copyright on chapter 14, which deals with disease transmission from bats to man and other animals.
Chapter headings are:- 1)Ecology of Cavity and Foliage Roosting Bats; 2)Sensory Ecology and Communication in the Chiroptera; 3)Bats and Balls: Sexual Selection and Sperm Competition in the Chiroptera; 4)Ecology of Bat Migration; 5)Life Histories of Bats: Life in the Slow Lane; 6)Ecomorphology of Bats: Comparative and Experimental Approaches Relating Structural Design to Ecology; 7)Attack and Defense: Interactions between Echolocating Bats and Their Insect Prey; 8)Glossophagine Bats and Their Flowers: Costs and Benefits for Plants and Pollinators; 9)Bats and Fruit: An Ecomorphological Approach; 10)Physiological Ecology and Energetics of Bats; 11)Evolution of Ecological Diversity in Bats; 12)Trophic Strategies, Niche Partioning, and Patterns of Ecological Organisations; 13)Patterns of Range Size, Richness, and Body Size in the Chiroptera; 14)Bats, Emerging Virus Infections, and the Rabies Paradigm; 15)Conservation Ecology of Bats; a list of references, a glossary and an index.
Cats are delightful animals, they have been fascinating the human mind for thousands of years, however in our modern world most of us tend to forget that there are many cat species that are neither the 'big cats' (tiger, lion, cheetah, leopard and jaguar etc.) that we see on TV nor house cats. Mel and Fiona Sunquist however are not amongst those who have forgotten. Both of them have spent many years gathering a great deal of data on all 36 species of cats that share this planet with us. It is, of course, not possible for them to give us the entirety of the knowledge they have acquired during their years of dedicated study, however they have made a good try.
This is an absolutely delightful book, suitable for everyone from a child to a grandparent. It is the sort of book I love to have on my shelf and I was delighted to receive my copy. It is a beautiful book in many ways, it balances well between the need to supply rigorous scientific information, without becoming bogged down in the horror of scientific writing, and the need to communicate the essence, the beauty and poetry of the animal under discussion.
The book starts with a brief introduction to cats in general, some biology, history and classification. After this the two introductory chapters are followed by series of chapters dedicated to a single species of cat. All 36 species are treated in detail, as far as the state of our current knowledge will allow, some species are very rare and even more rarely studied, and in the case of Felis sylvestris we are treated to a short introductory chapter and three follow chapters dealing with the two wild subspecies and the domestic cat.
The species lists obviously form the bulk of the book however they are followed by three additional chapters and 6 appendices. The final chapter subjects are; Recent Advances in Field Research; Relocating Cats; Conservation of Felids. The appendices are; CITES Listings Governing Trade in Wild Cats; IUCN Red List: Conservation Status of Wild Cats; Olfactory Communication in Felids; Vocal Communication in Felids; Reproduction in Felids; List of Scientific and Common Names Mentioned in the Text.
As well as being chock full of fascinating information and a pleasure to read the book is also delightfully illustrated with a series of charming photographs, both B/W and in colour. All in all if you like cats at all then this book must surely be on your must buy list.
© Earth-Life Web Productions