Mammals of North America: Temperate and Arctic Regions

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9781552094099: Mammals of North America: Temperate and Arctic Regions

This landmark reference by award-winning science writer Adrian Forsyth is completely up-to-date with the latest scientific names and behavioral data on the wild mammals of North America. Much more than a field guide, Mammals of North America goes beyond simple identification and description, and delves into the reasons wild mammals live and act the way they do: Why are some predators highly social, while others live alone? Why must shrews no bigger than a thimble eat more than their body weight each day or face certain starvation? How can a bat pick a small insect off the surface of a leaf in total darkness? How did a squat prehistoric pig-like animal evolve into one of the world's fastest creatures, the pronghorn antelope?

Blessed with vast areas of wilderness, the United States and Canada support the largest and healthiest populations of native mammals on Earth. Even residents of urban centers are seldom more than a morning's drive from the splendors of wild-mammal life. Whether you enjoy wildlife firsthand or from the comfort of your armchair, Adrian Forsyth's Mammals of North America will prove an essential and fascinating resource.

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Review:

Field guides help naturalists identify animals, but understanding their behavior is much more difficult. That's why this hefty reference work is so welcome. Mammals of North America is an excellent introduction to the behavior, ecology, and evolution of temperate and arctic mammals. Adrian Forsyth, a scientist and author of several other books on natural history, provides more than 100 species accounts, complete with excellent color photographs, range maps, basic life-history data, and concise summaries of behavior and ecology. From bighorn sheep to pygmy shrew, blue whale to black bear, Forsyth always finds something interesting to say.

But Forsyth's best writing shines in the mini-essays that occur throughout the text. What good are antlers? At less than a 10th of an ounce, how do shrews stay warm? Why do mammals produce milk? (From modified sweat glands, no less!) Why are seals such excellent divers? These topics allow him to address the big issues raised by recent advances in ecology and evolution, but always in the context of the mammal at hand, hoof, or flipper.

The geographical coverage is not truly North American. Forsyth provides accounts for only one-third of the North American species in some families. Most of the species omitted are from California, the arid Southwest, and Mexico. Is a companion volume for the arid regions of North America planned? Even with these omissions, Mammals of North America provides rich rewards for armchair naturalists as well as those who follow Louis Agassiz's advice to "study Nature, not books." --Pete Holloran

About the Author:

Adrian Forsyth is the author of Tropical Nature, The Natural History of Sex, The Nature of Birds, Portraits of the Rainforest, The Architecture of Animals, Exploring the World of Birds and Exploring the World of Insects. A specialist in animal behavior and rainforest ecology, Forsyth lives in Washington, D.C., where he is a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution.

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