Firefly Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians

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9781552976135: Firefly Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians

Combining authoritative, easy-to-read essays with exciting illustrations and color photographs, this comprehensive encyclopedia covers all the diverse families of reptiles and amphibians, from chameleons to turtles to tree frogs.

Lively, in-depth articles are illustrated with accurate artworks and color photographs and each species listing has a Factfile of the essential data:

  • Scientific Order and population
  • Distribution (with a color-coded map) and Habitat
  • Size and Color
  • Reproduction and Life Cycle
  • Longevity
  • Conservation Status

Scientists, zoologists and expert researchers have contributed specially commissioned articles. These specialists, all experts in their fields, are actively involved in conducting frontline scientific or behavioral research. The inclusion of their latest findings and interpretations sets this title apart.

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About the Author:

Tim Halliday is Professor of Biology at the Open University, England, where he teaches animal behavior and evolutionary biology, and researches the mating dynamics of newts, frogs and toads. He has written or edited several books and numerous scientific papers about amphibian sexual behavior. In the last ten years, he has concentrated on global declines among amphibian populations. He is the International Director of the IUCN/SSC Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force.

Dr. Kraig Adler is Professor of Biology at Cornell University. His research includes animal orientation and navigation, and the systematics, ecology and evolution of amphibians and reptiles which he has studied in the field around the world. Dr. Adler's research is widely published and he has written or edited eight books, including co-authoring Herpetology of China (1993) and Captive Management and Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles (1994). He served as President of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles and was elected the first Secretary-General of the World Congress of Herpetology.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Preface

Amphibans and reptiles were once seen as "lower forms" of life, and not just in popular misconceptions of the hierarchy of living things. Even the famous Swedish scientist Carl von Linné (Carolus Linnaeus) who, in the mid-1700s, established the system for naming species that is still in use today, is supposed to have held them in contempt: "These foul and loathsome animals .... thir Creator has not exerted his powers (to make) many of them." Happily, modern science takes a more enlightened view.

Nowadays, the joint study of amphibians and reptiles continues as a single discipline (herpetology, from the Greek herpeton, meaning "crawling things"). Yet even this conjunction owes more to tradition, and to the fact that methods of collecting and keeping amphibians and reptiles have always been very similar, than it does to any fundamental similarity between them. Herpetologists have found that the differences between the two groups are often more striking than their similarities. They have also found that there is much about these animals to arouse fascination, and a great deal to learn from them about animal life in general.

Apart from the way in which they maintain body temperature, and some other similarities such as having a single ventricle in the heart (birds and mammals have two), amphibians and reptiles differ markedly. Amphibians have a soft, smooth skin that is permeable to water; reptiles are covered in coarse, dry scales that are impervious. The eggs of amphibians lack a waterproof outer covering and are always laid in water or in damp places, whereas the reptilian egg has a thick, hard or parchment-like shell that holds moisture in, enabling the young to develop within it even on dry land.

These differences reflect the significant position that each group occupies in the evolutionary history of the vertebrates. The amphibians made the transition from the totally aquatic life of fishes and evolved the ability to move about freely on land. The move involved a radical reorganization of the skeleton, particularly of the bones in the limbs, in comparison to that in the fins of fishes. It also involved an elaboration of the ability to breathe air, rather than dissolved oxygen, that had already evolved in their lungfish ancestors. The reptiles took the conquest of the land a stage further and, by acquiring an impermeable skin and an impermeable covering for the egg, became completely emancipated from standing water.

In different ages, nature has, in fact, exerted its powers to make great many of these creatures, for early in their history both groups were a much more prominent feature of the Earth's faun, than they are today. For many millions of years the reptiles were the dominant form of life. Each, however, has become much less important in terms of numbers of species, so that today the amphibians, with about 5,000 species, are the second smallest vertebrate group, while the reptiles, at around 8,000 species, are themselves less numerous than either fishes or birds.

Thanks to the present upsurge of interest in amphibians and reptiles among professional biologists, the science of herpetology is now making contributions to zoological knowledge that compare favorably in significance with those made in ornithology and mammalogy. Partly this is due to the realization that the traditional distinction between "higher" and "lower" vertebrates is no longer valid. Amphibians and reptiles are not degenerate or inferior in comparison to birds and mammals; they simply go about things in different ways and are, in many respects, just as successful. They are, for example, much more efficient in their use of energy and, because of various special features that they possess, are able to live in environments that are inaccessible to other groups. Most notably, reptiles are able to thrive in the driest deserts where birds and mammals cannot survive.

Another factor in the enhanced status of amphibians and reptiles has been the recognition that they are much more diverse than was previously realized. Modern biology has its foundations in Europe, a continent that is relatively impoverished in terms of amphibian and reptile species when compared with the America, and, especially, the tropics, where new species are still being discovered. Finally, biologists have discovered that amphibians and reptiles are ideal subjects for study within a variety of different zoological disciplines.

The science of zoology is like a tapestry with numerous interwoven threads. In one direction run several distinct disciplines, such as anatomy, physiology, ecology, and behavior, that consider similar processes in a variety of animal types. In the other direction are those branches that each consider just one kind of animal, such as insects, fishes, or birds. This book reflects the complex, integrated nature of zoology inasmuch as, while it is concerned with only two classes of animals, it also considers phenomena, in physiology and behavior for example, that are found in a wide variety of animals.

The formal plan of the book follows the tapestry's threads in the direction of classification. A major article introduces the class Amphibia and another the class Reptilia, detailing their evolutionary history and outstanding aspects of physiology, life history, and behavior. A separate main entry is devoted to each of the three orders of amphibians and to the four main groups of reptiles. Each entry is introduced by a factfile giving the number of species, genera, and families, their distribution, and a summary of habitat, size, color, reproduction, longevity, and conservation status. The scale drawings indicate the ranges of sizes to be found in the group as compared to a 1.8m (6ft) man. The main text deals in general with the order's characteristic physiological forms and the varieties of the niches which it has occupied. A major section at the end of the main text gives a separate description of each of the group's families, highlighting important genera and species.

Five of the main entries include summaries in tabular form of the families within the groups in question. Each table gives the numbers of species and genera in the family, their distribution, the range of sizes, colors, and body forms, and, where applicable, the distinctive points of life history. The tables also list species or genera referred to in the text, plus their scientific names.

At several points, we follow threads running in the other direction, highlighting aspects of the study of amphibians and reptiles that have made herpetology an increasingly important discipline within zoology as a whole. Articles of this kind appear as double- page special features following the two introductions and certain of the main entries, and they also appear within the main entries as shorter, boxed features. Here we have allowed authors to report in greater depth on the most up-to-date understanding of fascinating aspects of amphibian and reptile life.

The authors often emphasize the need to conserve species threatened with extinction and by mismanagement, for one of the most alarming developments that has occurred since we prepared the first edition of this book is the accelerating rate with which the world's amphibians and reptiles are declining and becoming extinct. Throughout this encyclopedia we have used the IUCN (World Conservation Union) categories for endangered species, using the 2000 edition of the Red List. These categories are explained in the table below.

This book is the fruit of the labors of an international team of authors preeminent in their fields. To their invaluable efforts have been added those of the photographers and illustrators (particularly David Dennis) whose work has so skillfully brought these pages to life. Our grateful acknowledgments are due to all of them, as well as to the dedicated publishing team at Andromeda Oxford Ltd., led by Dr Graham Bateman, Dr Peter Lewis and Mark Regardsoe. Finally, it is for the reader to

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