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Book Review: Handbook of Salamanders (Bishop)

This is a discussion on Book Review: Handbook of Salamanders (Bishop) within the Book Reviews forums, part of the General Discussion & News from Members category; Handbook of Salamanders by Sherman C. Bishop. Although quite old (Comstock Publishing Comapany 1943), this book has a lot too ...

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Old 17th February 2009   #1 (permalink)
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Default Book Review: Handbook of Salamanders (Bishop)

Handbook of Salamanders by Sherman C. Bishop. Although quite old (Comstock Publishing Comapany 1943), this book has a lot too offer. Filled with pictures (all black and white) and drawings representing I believe every, or nearly every species of salamanders in the United States that were known of at the time. The representations of the species are either live photographs, in the wild, on a plain white background, or preserved specimens. The preserved specimens are in great condition because at times I thought I was looking at living individuals.

The edition I have is a reissue from 1967 (still with the 1943 taxonomy) with a 1994 forward by Edmund D. Brodie, Jr. This forward includes a list showing what of the Caudata taxonomy has changed. In other words it has what of Bishop's taxonomy is still valid, what isn't, and what's new. It also has the valid names for species that are still recognized. This updated list is still outdated but, is a much more modern approach.

For example the list would have Amphiuma tridactylum on one side (1994) and Amphiuma means tridactylum on the other (1943's classification). And for new species it would have something like Amphiuma pholeter on the valid side and a dash on Bishop's side showing that it wasn't recognized. A cool feature is the person who described this new species and the year are next to the name. I hope that doesn't sound too confusing, but in the book it is well organized and easy to follow.

I purchased this book mainly for Bishop's classification of Necturus which is actually more relevent to today than other more recent books that cover the genus. This book uses that lodingi name for the Mobile Alabama form for those of you who know where I'm coming from. As far as Necturus goes, N. alabamensis isn't recognized but is covered in part by Bishop's classification of N. beyeri The red river mudpuppy N. m. louisianensis is treated as a full species. But what was really interesting is that this book recognized N. m. bishopi (a well outdated subspecies of the common mudpuppy) with pictures! This, now is just a color form, but the only pictures I've seen of it. Many pictures are both dorso and verso shots which is helpful.

I wouldn't use this book as a field guide (even though it has very long accounts of physical description) due to the "outdatedness," but more as a reference and a type of salamander bible. I think any salamander enthusiast should own this book, just for the fact that it is among Bishop's greatest works, who is byfar one of the biggest salamander enthusiasts/scientists in history.

Sorry about my rant on Necturus but that was the reason why I got this book, and what I focus on.
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Old 17th February 2009   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Book Review: Handbook of Salamanders (Bishop)

Nice job, Ryan! At one point I was going to write a review of this book, and never got around to it, and now I don't have to! However, I did write out this paragraph that I'd stuck in my copy:

"A sad part about reading an old classic text like this is seeing how the distribution maps have shrunk. So if you want to wallow in sadness, compare the ranges in this book with the ranges in, say, the Audubon or Peterson guides, of: Taricha, Notophthalmus, Necturus, Cryptobranchus, Pseudotriton ruber, Ambystoma tigrinum in New York state, or really, any species you like."

And of course, my incredibly witty joke about the scientific names presented in this book (how they have changed, as you mentioned):

Changing Scientific Names of Newts



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Old 18th February 2009   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Book Review: Handbook of Salamanders (Bishop)

Thanks Dawn,
oh, and what you said about the ranges shrinking... yes it's quite sad. but I dont believe its all due to smaller numbers, habitat destruction, and other human issues, but also the lack of knowledge that they had about range back then compared to today.



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Old 18th February 2009   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Book Review: Handbook of Salamanders (Bishop)

One of many things I noticed in this book is the range of P. cinerus and how it covered much of the Eastern U.S. The book shows the range of P. cinerus stretching down to southern Georgia where only P. serratus is found. P. serratus wasn't listed as a species in the book. I believe P. serratus must have been considered P. cinerus when this book was published.



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Old 18th February 2009   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Book Review: Handbook of Salamanders (Bishop)

oops, by N. m. bishopi I meant N. m. stictus



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