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A Natural History of Amphibians [Paperback]

Robert C. Stebbins , Nathan W. Cohen
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 40.25
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Book Description

Jan. 26 1997 Princeton Paperbacks

This is a book for all readers who want to learn about amphibians, the animal group that includes frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians. It draws on many years of classroom teaching, laboratory experience, and field observation by the authors. Robert Stebbins and Nathan Cohen lead readers on a fascinating odyssey as they explore some of nature's most interesting creatures, interspersing their own observations throughout the book. A Natural History of Amphibians can serve as a textbook for students and independent learners, as an overview of the field for professional scientists and land managers, and as an engaging introduction for general readers.

The class Amphibia contains more than 4,500 known living species. New species are being discovered so rapidly that the number may grow to more than 5,000 during our lifetimes. However, their numbers are being rapidly decimated around the globe, largely due to the encroachment of humans on amphibian habitats and from growing human-caused environmental pollution, discussed at length in the final chapter. The authors focus our attention on the "natural history" of amphibians worldwide and emphasize their interactions with their environments over time: where they live; how they reproduce; how they have been affected by evolutionary processes; what factors will determine their destinies over time. Through the experienced eyes of the authors, who are skilled observers, we come to see and understand the place of amphibians in the natural world around us.


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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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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, a lttle technical Nov. 22 2003
Format:Paperback
I don't have a biology background but was (am) very interested in learning more about amphibians since we're setting up a neat frog pond in the back yard. So this was a book I came across and its pretty good for the lay person like me but it does get a bit technical in parts (so its probably better for beginner biology student or someone with the basics already under their belt). There are some really neat drawings in here - like those that show the different toe shapes of different salamanders and then go on to describe the different modes of locomotion. There's interesting behavioral info like territorialism in salamanders (I had no idea! they always seem so mellow!) And there's a fascinating chapter (short unfortunately) on homing and migration. There are lots of neat chapters, those are just a few items that spring to mind. I'm still looking for more books that will give me a good basic understanding of the life and times of amphibians but this was certainly a great start. I highly recommend it since it does have so much info and for the lay person like myself it gave me a chance to expand my knowledge. I'm fascinated by vernal pools and the whole migration/reproduction cycles but this was a good start.
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4.0 out of 5 stars well-written and easy to read June 25 2001
By Jodi
Format:Paperback
This book is intended for a general audience and is great for anyone who wants to know more about frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians. Despite this fact, I'm sure that even professional herpetologists will find this book interesting and learn something that they do not know. Chapters include: skin, breathing, food habits, voice, reproduction and declining amphibians. Overall, an interesting and highly informative book. Highly recommended!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book detailing Amphibians Jan. 9 2010
Format:Paperback
I really enjoy this book, A Natural History of Amphibians offers the basic foundation of amphibian fundamentals. This book is a very good starting point for biology students or advancing hobbyists. this book covers a great deal of information in very little text (not completely in depth but a very good over view) gives information on skin, breathing, locomotion, nose, eyes, vision, food habits, ears, voice, temperature, water regulation, protection against predators, home range, territorial behavior, (a very good chapter and sub-chapters on) reproduction, and about 40 pgs on declining amphibians and the contributions of amphibians to human welfare (with obvious sub categories of all). I am giving this book *4 stars* and I am starting to lean to 3.5 only becouse of its age, this book is now apx. 15 years old (from first print) and there is a lot of new text and findings that could make this and other books like it extremely beneficial. "A++ one to get you started"
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, a lttle technical Nov. 22 2003
By merrymousies - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I don't have a biology background but was (am) very interested in learning more about amphibians since we're setting up a neat frog pond in the back yard. So this was a book I came across and its pretty good for the lay person like me but it does get a bit technical in parts (so its probably better for beginner biology student or someone with the basics already under their belt). There are some really neat drawings in here - like those that show the different toe shapes of different salamanders and then go on to describe the different modes of locomotion. There's interesting behavioral info like territorialism in salamanders (I had no idea! they always seem so mellow!) And there's a fascinating chapter (short unfortunately) on homing and migration. There are lots of neat chapters, those are just a few items that spring to mind. I'm still looking for more books that will give me a good basic understanding of the life and times of amphibians but this was certainly a great start. I highly recommend it since it does have so much info and for the lay person like myself it gave me a chance to expand my knowledge. I'm fascinated by vernal pools and the whole migration/reproduction cycles but this was a good start.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb June 23 2007
By Dr. Lee D. Carlson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Amphibians usually are ignored when speaking about species that are threatened with extinction. Unlike birds and mammals, amphibians are not romanticized in the nature magazines of the popular press, due possibly in part to their physical appearance, which may not garner sympathy as compared for example to a bald eagle or an elephant. But amphibians are fascinating and beautiful creatures, and in this book their biology and evolution is discussed concisely but effectively. Those readers, such as this reviewer, who are not familiar with the subject matter but who are very curious about the biology of amphibians, will find a good introduction here, and many references can be consulted for readers who need more details.

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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well-written and easy to read June 25 2001
By Jodi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is intended for a general audience and is great for anyone who wants to know more about frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians. Despite this fact, I'm sure that even professional herpetologists will find this book interesting and learn something that they do not know. Chapters include: skin, breathing, food habits, voice, reproduction and declining amphibians. Overall, an interesting and highly informative book. Highly recommended!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down March 14 2011
By E. Lyle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was fascinated by amphibians from the first moment I became aware of them. But, I didn't really know much about them. I thought they were like reptiles except they lived the first stage of their life in water. This book opened their amazing world to me, far different from the one I imagined: the strange little tricks they use to fend off predators, their ability at times to be active at amazingly low temperatures, their life-long needs for moisture, their ability to breath not only using lungs or gills but through their skin, and more. The book does a run-down of major body systems --Skin, limbs, tails, and so on. Then it moves on to how amphibians adjust to their environment: Regulating their temperature and moisture levels, protecting themselves from predators, establishing territories, migrating, and reproducing. The style is fairly engaging, far more interesting than what many academic authors offer. Other books I've read on the subject were either very dry or overloaded with detail yet lacking in important conclusions that take tons of expertise to reach otherwise. For anyone fascinated by wildlife, but not yet up on amphibians, this book is a must and very pleasant read.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good Oct. 22 2009
By Maria J. B. Leite - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very good book and is great for anyone who wants to know more about frogs and other groups.
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