Mammals of the World - A Checklist
By Andrew Duff and Ann Lawson
Published A & C Black, 2004 - £24.99
At £25 this is a very expensive checklist, and not really much use to anyone except a mammal twitcher – and they're pretty scarce. That is because it is simply a list, based largely on the 1993 edition of Wilson and Reeder's Mammal Species of the World, with updates of newly described or 'split' species. Wilson & Reeder is out of date, but as most mammalogists know, shortly to be republished in a revised edition.
The present authors have listed most of the new species described since 1993, but not made clear when any of their classification of the higher taxa varies from other authors. But with mammalian taxonomy in such a state of flux, it is doubtful that a simple list fulfils any useful function. Not only are no author's names or dates are cited, but the English names made up for many species are often singularly lacking in imagination – demonstrating that there is no need for English names for obscure species. Furthermore, species that have been recently synonymised are listed in an appendix, not in the main checklist, where one might expect to find them.
It is a great pity that the book was published in its present format, as it must have taken a great deal of hard work to compile. However, as soon as the revision of Wilson and Reeder is published, Mammals of the World will be obsolete, and it is difficult to know what it really adds to the study of mammalian taxonomy.
Review by John Burton