REFERENCE

Bats: An Illustrated Guide to All Species

Smithsonian. Apr. 2019. 400p. photos by Merlin Tuttle. maps. index. ISBN 9781588346476. $29.95. SCI
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OrangeReviewStarBats make up about 20 percent of the world's mammals, but the challenges of studying such small, fast-flying, nocturnal animals mean that our knowledge about them is incomplete. Technological advances in field and lab research have increased our understanding, reflected in this spectacular volume from Taylor (The Way of the Hare). The precise text and lush, extravagant photographs from Tuttle (The Secret Lives of Bats) offer a compelling combination. A concise introduction explores evolution, diversity, biology, behavior, ecology, and the bats/people connection. Brief profiles of 1,386 known species, arranged taxonomically, comprise the second section and detail the distribution, conservation status, physical traits, habitat, and behavior of various kinds of bats. Mostly color and full-page photographs show the creatures doing their beneficial things: on the wing chasing insects, pollinating flowers, or aiding in seed dispersal. These animals astonish even in repose, especially when "sitting" for one of Tuttle's facial portraits or roosting en masse. Indexes provide access by scientific and common bat names, but one might wish for an easier way to pinpoint local species, such as an additional "distribution table."
VERDICT Going far beyond the practical value of a guidebook, this is an important update to bat literature and one to savor, containing a wonder on nearly every page and proving that bats are indeed "intelligent, curious, comical, even essential animals."

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