Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Volume 2
Volume 2: Hoofed Mammals
Edited by Don E. Wilson, Russell A. Mittermeier
Illustrated by Toni Llobet
Published by Lynx Edicions (in association with Conservation International and IUCN), 2011
As I wrote when reviewing volume one, it is a mammoth undertaking and has to be admired, and will doubtless be a major work of reference for a long time to come. However I still have a few reservations about some aspects. And one of the functions of a review is to point out errors, and to hopefully improve future editions/volumes.
As before, when I reviewed Volume 1, I turned to a page where I thought I knew quite a bit about the subject to see how accurate it was, and I was disappointed to find that this time, the section of the Guanaco failed to mention the Chaco population of the Guanaco, that was confirmed in Medanos National Park, Paraguay, in 2006. It is disconcerting when you find mistakes straight off, as it does lead to questioning the reliability of the rest.
Another annoyance is that the long and extensive introductions to the families contain much information that, although specific to individual species, is not repeated under the species accounts. This makes reference rather slow and irritating, as generally speaking if one is looking up an individual species it is convenient to have all the information in one place. As an example, it is necessary to cross refer to the introduction to find out about wapiti and red deer hybrids, which are not mentioned in the species accounts.
The illustrations are beautifully drawn, but I fail to see the point of a plate such as plate 54, klipspringers or 46 and 47 Ovis, among others. Until recently klipspringers were considered a single, monotypic species, Oreotragus oreotragus, but they are now split into 11 allopatric species, with very few morphological differences; and similarly wild sheep or mouflon were considered mostly as far fewer species. Furthermore the plates illustrating them do not really illuminate what the significant differences are – so what is the point of illustrating them? The same argument could be applied to the dik-diks and many other illustrations.
Another criticism of the plates, is why the animals are generally not labelled? They are all numbered but mostly not named. The Reindeer plate does in fact have all seven illustrations labelled with their subspecific names. But since there is nothing to indicate what the significant differences are, and nothing in the text describing the differences between the subspecies, it is questionable as to whether or not the differences illustrated are of taxonomic significance, or merely seasonal variations. A solution to all of these issues would have been to have included keys to the species/subspecies concerned.
I find it rather annoying that only some domesticated species are treated. Llama and Alpaca are given full species accounts, but the domesticated horse (Equus caballus) is not. An anomaly since the domestic/feral horse has a huge distribution, and occurs in many different forms, and has major ecological impacts, as do the various goats (C. hircus), wild sheep (O. aries), and cattle (B. taurus) some of which are very ancient introductions, and have massive impacts on the local ecology.
But as I wrote at the outset, this is a significant work that needs to be on the bookshelf of any serious mammalogist. How useful this format will be when it comes to rodents remains to be seen.
Review by John Burton
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