CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 9 . . . . January 3, 2003
The editors are acknowledged experts in the field of biology. The contributors comprise a list of 38 scientists primarily associated with universities in the UK or USA.
The book is divided into two sections to describe these classes of invertebrates: amphibia (the most familiar are salamanders and frogs) include 44 families with 5399 species, and reptilia (including turtles, lizards, snakes and crocodiles) occupy 60 families with more than 7776 species. Each class is introduced by a major article followed by several "Special Features" pages offering an in-depth look at specific aspects, eg. "Declining Amphibian Populations." In color-coded main entry sections, each group is thoroughly examined under subheadings describing general physiology, locomotion, feeding, defense, conservation and environment. A “Factfile” summarizes data on Distribution (including a colored map), Habitat, Size, Color, Reproduction, Longevity and Conservation Status. A detailed tabular summary then breaks the group into families, eg. 28 families of frogs and toads. Three “Photo Story” pages give a more visual account of a life process, eg. "Leatherbacks, Birth on the Beach." A glossary of common and more difficult biological terms, a bibliography of reference sources and further reading (in extremely small type, and mainly of value to the serious researcher) and an extensive index complete the book.
Illustrations are generous and of excellent quality, whether close-up color photos, or precisely coloured drawings (eg. eight stages of a frog's jump), line drawings and graphs. They are well placed throughout the book, breaking up sections of rather small type that would otherwise be visually overwhelming in this large book.
The sophisticated reading level will make this volume with its extremely detailed presentation accessible to capable high school students and adults. Younger readers who have developed the skill of “reading illustrations” will also find a wealth of fascinating information.
Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian who lives in BC.