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Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Book Review - Reptiles and Amphibians of New Zealand - Princeton University Press

      More than most nations of the world, New Zealand has suffered from the introduction of alien species by humans, wittingly or unwittingly, with the consequent depauperation of its native flora and fauna.
     Reptiles and amphibians have suffered far less than other taxa in this respect, so it was with pleasure that I received a Princeton Field Guide devoted to these animals. I was not familiar with any of the three authors of this work, but they have done a fine job, and I commend the guide they have produced. It is generously illustrated, complemented by a very informative text.



     First in the coverage is the "herp" most associated with New Zealand, the Tuatara, the sole surviving member of an ancient lineage of Sphenodontid reptiles. Tuataras feature heavily in Maori culture and legend  and are sometimes viewed as a repository of wisdom; gaining thus a special significance in the hearts of many New Zealanders. Healthy populations survive on offshore islands free of introduced mammalian predators.
     The succeeding section covers New Zealand Geckos, with an excellent introductory text and a wonderful series of diagrams showing salient gecko characters, as well as electron microscope images of gecko lamellae. There follows a species by species account with photographs and range maps.
     Next in line are the skinks, the largest taxonomic group of reptiles and amphibians in New Zealand, most of which are in the near endemic genus Oligosoma. Full coverage of every species is accompanied by photographs and range maps. Skinks are found in almost every corner of New Zealand, including most of the offshore islands, and occupy a wide range of habitats, and are therefore able to be seen by even the most casual observer.
     New Zealand is home to only six species of frog, three of which, or fifty percent are non-native. The native species all belong in the genus Leiopelma, are strictly nocturnal and cryptic; therefore are generally encountered by research biologists more frequently than by the layman. All are in a precarious state at one level or another and are in need of active conservation measures. The three introduced species are from Australia, as a result of acclimatisation societies, as has often been the case around the world for organisms in many taxa. If only those nostalgic immigrants could have seen the long-term consequences of their actions!
     Five species of marine turtles visit New Zealand, only one as a breeding species, but New Zealand waters are critical habitat for all five species, and the universal threat to oceanic turtles is well known, and has been the subject of intense coverage in recent years.
     Four highly venomous marine snakes are found in New Zealand coastal waters, and occasionally washed up on land, but two species are frequently found basking, sometimes in large numbers,  and should not be tampered with.
     The book provides complete coverage of the entire assemblage of New Zealand reptiles and amphibians, with a well written text and superlative illustrations. I vigorously recommend it to anyone interested in the fauna of New Zealand, and especially for any naturalist contemplating a visit this distant land.

Reptiles and Amphibians of New Zealand
Dylan van Winkel, Marleen Baling and Rod Hitchmough
Paperback - US$35.00 - 9780691199504 - 368 pages - 400 colour photogrpahs - 5 1/ in. x 8 1/2"
Publication date: 25 February 2020
     
     

35 comments:

  1. You do find some fascinating and informative works to review. Many thanks.

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  2. Florida has nearly lost many many species due to boa constrictors. The everglades are being emptied, the boas are appearing in back yards. Zebra fish are eating local fish.
    Scay.

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  3. I'm sure it's a interesting book, David. I'm not very fond of reptiles, but I sometimes have worms and frogs in my garden. Today it was very many birds here who visited my feeders. The snow makes them very hungry.

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  4. That sounds like an awesome book to have in my library. I will be having a look around for it, thanks to your review :)

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  5. Sounds like a great book. I'm scared of snakes, but I do like geckos, and always enjoyed watching them in my time in Israel. Have a great day, regards, Valerie

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  6. I love all animals, including the Komodo dragon (because it is so far away!) but I am afraid of the little frogs ... in general of all amphibians! I get chicken skin when I see the pictures! Brrr ... Because my son lives in the polder ... on spring is full of frogs ... I always wear boots when I go to take pictures!

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  7. Encore un livre qui semble très riche en informations et photos.
    Bonne journée

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  8. Hello, I love all the creatures, this looks like a great field guide. Thanks for the review. Have a great day!

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  9. Veldig gøy å lese!Jeg liker reptiler!Men ville ikke ha en i fangen skap!

    Takk for at du deler og ønsker deg og dine en flott helg!

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  10. Hi David - it's interesting to know that NZ has some endemic species ... the Tuatara sounds fascinating ... but those marine snakes must be really dangerous - another of Princeton's wonderful reference books ... cheers Hilary

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  11. This is so cool! I recently attended a talk on reptiles, and I have decided that they are some of my favourite creatures. It's always good to learn more about them.

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  12. Alien species are a huge problem world over and it is always the native species that suffer which is so sad. I am generally quite interested in reptiles but the venomous marine snakes are a new one on me. I have never been to New Zealand, though a couple of visits have been made to Australia. Remind me not to swim in the waters around anywhere there!! I see they are fairly docile and there is no record of anyone being bitten but I always believe in not taking stupid chances! Cheers Diane

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  13. I should find that one for Rick's brother. Not my thing -- I don't do reptiles (except frogs) but they travel to NZ often and hike!

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  14. Como siempre amigo David la mano del ser humano. ¿Cuando dejaremos de una vez por todas de trasladar toda clase de especies de un lugar a otro sin tener en cuenta las consecuencias de estas acciones?
    Me parece un libro sumamente interesante por las explicaciones que has dado.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido amigo y compadre David.

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  15. Many venomous snakes...
    The area is beautifully represented in the book.

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  16. Looks like a great field guide. Nice review, David!

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  17. Great to see this book is out there. There is a lot of conservation going on trying to save many creatures. As long as the snakes stay in the water, I'm good--there aren't any on land :)

    I'm so happy to see you at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

    My Corner of the World

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  18. You do find some wonderful books to review. It's doubtful that I'll ever have a chance to travel to NZ, but if the opportunity arose, this would be a good resource.

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  19. Reptiles and amphibians are some of the favorite critters that I encounter while gardening. They are essential parts of any healthy ecosystem. Including New Zealand's.

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  20. Jag håller mig gärna på avstånd från reptiler men jag skulle i varje ögonblick argumentera för deras rätt att existera i våra ekosystem.
    Jag trampade en gång i min ungdom på en giftorm som satte spår hos mig. Jag har jobbat med min rädsla som nu är hanterbar genom att konfrontera mig med ormarna, iaktta dem och ibland även fotografera dem men på behörigt avstånd.

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    Replies
    1. Reptiles and amphibians are an essential part of every healthy ecosystem.

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  21. The reptiles and amphibians are beautiful, and NZ for many absolutely.

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  22. Me parece muy interesante. Besos.

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  23. Another fascinating book and another great review, David!
    I'd love to visit New Zealand, but mainly for the plants. :)

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    1. I'll meet you there. You do the plants and I'll do the birds! And we'll squeeze in a few amphibians too.

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  24. Sounds like a great book. I'm petrified of snakes!!!

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  25. A wonderful review of this book David. I hope that it will be of great use to people who will vissit New Zealand.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  26. Buen libro David. Interesarnos y saber de la naturaleza siempre es bueno.
    Un abrazo

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  27. ...I love the icy path, but I'll stick with walking on sand for a bit longer!

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  28. New Zealand is a country I'd love to visit, David, as my mother, in her later life, used to spend most of her winters out of UK, and live in a camper van in NZ on North Island, and always said how beautiful it was. If ever I go there, this is a book I would have to buy!

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  29. This looks like an enjoyable coffee table book. I love seeing these little creature when out and about. The skinks we see here have amazing shiny skin.

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  30. Funny and also very nice that you keep posting a book review on your blog. This way everyone can see what it is and if he is attracted to it, he can also buy that book. Always very interesting and educational :-)))
    Dear greetings, Helma

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