Book Review – Lagomorphs: Pikas, Rabbits and Hares of the World
Andrew Smith’s new guide to the world’s lagomorphs is a welcome addition to my bookshelf.
The book covers all of the world’s lagomorphs, which currently comprise 63 species of rabbits and hares and 29 species of pikas. If you are familiar with the Squirrels of the World book (also from Johns Hopkins University Press) then you will know the format. Each species is covered with a page or so of information, including a photograph, up to date range map and information on ID, behaviour etc. And you will likely recognise a few of the photo credits in here (Paul Carter for instance).
I wouldn’t describe this as a field guide: although there are images of all (I think) species, many pictures are not particularly useful for identification in the field. But then again when it comes to pikas in particular, most field guide plates are not very useful for identification in the field it seems. Something that Andrew Smith and some of contributors to this book have impressed on me several times.
From a mammalwatching perspective, the book’s strength is mainly as a complement to any field guide. It contains the latest range and taxonomic information as well as a description of key characteristics that can help distinguish species in the field. Though for some species.. and yes, I am talking about bloody pikas again, a bit of a sore point with me it seems ….when it comes to some pikas, it seems pretty much impossible to identify certain species where they overlap without a skull (no matter how hard some of us try). What this book does help with is clarify where those ranges and habitats overlap thereby helping to reduce pika ID post traumatic stress. Yes, it’s a thing.
I also found it helpful to see the latest taxonomy clearly explained in one place. I squeezed a couple of new species out of some of the splits in here (thank you Andean Rabbit and Gabb’s Cottontail). Perhaps I can find some more. I also enjoyed the introductory chapters which will appeal to all lagophiles.
So a useful book in my opinion. And a great format, which – together with the Squirrels of the World book – is a welcome trend. I hope other mammalian orders are in the pipeline. Primates anyone?
Available from John Hopkins Uni in hardback ($90 at the moment), for kindle on Amazon ($54) and elsewhere I’m sure.
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The problem with this book is timing. Neotropic rabbit taxonomy is being actively worked on, and a few people are trying to sort out the hare mess, so a lot of things are going to change within a few years (and yes, pikas as well).