A Natural History of Amphibians Paperback – Jan 26 1997
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"This fine book helps us to appreciate amphibians more fully and provides vital scientific information that may help us to protect them. . . . Although amphibians are but one piece of the biodiversity crisis, this book may become a model for those who champion the preservation of threatened species of all kinds."--Andrew R. Blaustein, Trends in Ecology and Evolution
"Conveys the authors' enthusiasm for studying the natural history of a fascinating group of animals. The illustrations are superb [and the] line drawings are a delight. . . . A major contribution."--Kentwood D. Wells, The Quarterly Review of Biology
'[P]rofessional zoologists and serious amateurs. . . will find it a really useful, and enjoyable, work of reference."--Nicholas Gould, International Zoo News
"This book ... seems likely to replace Duellman and Trueb's Biology of Amphibians as the standard text for students and researchers."--Chris Mattison, New Scientist
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There are many interesting discussions in the book, and many surprises for those who are new to the subject. For example, it is surprising to learn that there are salamanders that can grow to over 1.5 meters, that some amphibians keep their gills throughout their life, instead of losing them, as is typically the case for most of the species, and that amphibians usually drink by dermal absorption. The authors also describe the breathing mechanisms for amphibians, and the reasons why one observes a different frequency between the movements of the throat and the body. Readers with a background in physics in particular will appreciate this discussion, along with others such as the vision capabilities of amphibians (they focus by changing the position of the lens rather than its shape), their extraordinary auditory capabilities, and their hydroregulation. It is also amazing to learn that amphibians can survive freezing of their bodily fluids by converting liver glycogen to glucose in response to the formation of ice in their body tissue. By far the most interesting discussion in the book though is on "shoreline orientation" and what information amphibians need to carry it out.
The book ends with discussions on the survival/extinction status of amphibians, with a list of the threatened species. Convincing arguments are given for the need of the biosphere to maintain the amphibian species, but it will be interesting to see if the author's recommendations are carried out. As a statistical survey might show, humans do not seem to care too much about amphibians, and so it might be more difficult to preserve them than is the case for other animals. But to not hear a coqui frog in Puerto Rico, or to not see hordes of toads coming out in the summer rain would definitely diminish the human quality of life.
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