Turtles and Tortoises (A Firefly Guide)

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9781552096314: Turtles and Tortoises (A Firefly Guide)
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Turtles and tortoises are fascinating survivors from an ancient world of reptiles that reach back to the age of the dinosaurs. Today they rank among the most threatened species on the planet. Their slow movement on land and lack of defenses combine with habitat destruction to make them vulnerable everywhere in the world.

This guidebook describes in detail the appearance and behavior of 190 land, marine and freshwater species of turtle. The concise, informative text is supplemented by a wealth of drawings and photographs which show the individual forms, patterns, coloration and habitat adaptation of each turtle.

This handy guidebook will prove invaluable to the student, naturalist and anyone interested in this fascinating creature. Each species of turtle is covered in detail - name, species, habitat, food, range, and a thorough description are provided for each entry. 190 species are covered and illustrated with 400 color photographs and 250 drawings and charts to provide a unique look at turtles and tortoises.

An ideal book for anyone interested in marine life, it provides up-to-date information, clear color photographs in a handy format for use in the field or at a desk. Readers who need essential facts quickly will be pleased with the orderly presentation of information, the completeness of the entries and the accuracy of the information. The color photographs help in identifying species as well as providing a visual reference for the information presented.

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About the Author:

Vincenzo Ferri was a founder and director of the Herpetological Study Center in Italy. He works with major conservation organizations as well as those responsible for parks and nature reserves on problems of turtle and tortoise management and protection. He is the author of a number of books and scientific and popular articles and an advocate of animal protection programs around the world.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Living With a Shell

It may appear presumptuous to try to describe the highly diversified world of turtles and tortoises in a single book: indeed, even specialists have modestly admitted that we still know all too little about these animals and that discoveries continue to surface with such rapidity that it is difficult even to count the number of officially recognized species. What this book aims to achieve is to discuss and illustrate the physical, biological and behavioral characteristics of the majority of known species in the context of their present-day environment.

The general term "chelonian" will refer to the group in its entirety; so, too, will the name "turtle." Strictly speaking, however, a turtle is an aquatic species, whereas the term "tortoise" is applicable to terrestrial species.

These creatures are among the most successful of all animal groups in that they have retained their unusual body structure almost without modification since the distant Triassic era, some 200 million years ago. This characteristic anatomical form represents one of the most interesting adaptations in the world of vertebrates, and the robust "shell" that covers the body is without doubt the secret of their successful evolution. Many orders of reptiles developed over an extremely long period only to disappear around 65 million years ago, probably as a result of geological and climatic upheavals following the breakup of the original single continental platform (Pangea) into the present-day continents. The most plausible explanation of the disaster is that because the thousands of animals then living on Earth were by that time so highly specialized in their lifestyles, they were incapable of adapting to new environmental conditions. The striking anatomical and biological uniformity of the Chelonia and their opportunist methods of food gathering (with the development of a portable shell, they ceased to be predators and, in the main, made the transition to a vegetarian or omnivorous diet) were surely contributory factors toward their survival.

 

Notes for ease of reference

The individual page entries describe the majority of living species and subspecies of turtles and tortoises according to the latest information concerning fauna and taxonomy. They have been subdivided according to the biogeographical regions of current distribution and origin, with reference to the work of Zunino and Zullini (1995). Thus there are illustrations -- with one or more examples -- of more than 170 species of Chelonia, including a number of extremely localized, rare or recently discovered species. For certain species, however, which are little known or living in surroundings that are difficult to access, it has not been possible to find photographs taken in nature; those of special interest or importance from the conservation viewpoint have nevertheless been illustrated by color drawings. It is the author's aim to continue researching such material with a view to making future editions of this book more comprehensive.

In the case of all the species considered, the following data are given: geographical distribution, habitat, principal characteristics (morphological and biological) and the present situation in light of national regulations and programs of protection and conservation. Each region or subregion is introduced by a general overview in which the endemic families and genera are noted. In the numbered entries for individual species, a map illustrates the known distribution. For each family of Chelonia, there is a boxed sequential list of features for identifying the genera in which the existing species are grouped; reference is made only to those morphological features which are evident in the live animal (based on the identification tables of Ernst and Barbour, 1989, and the CITES checklists, 1995).

The tables in the present book provide pointers to genus determination by offering two alternatives, each giving a direction to further information. The index of chelonian species at the end of the book lists, by family, all the species (and to some extent the subspecies) previously described or systematically identified (on the basis of the Turtle, Tuatara and Crocodile Checklist by F. Wayne King and R. L. Burke, 1997, and contributions published in the scientific journal Chelonian Conservation and Biology by Behler, Pritchard and Rhodin, 1996-98). The page numbers in the index refer to the individual entry or specific mention of that species or subspecies in the book.

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