SCIENCES

Meerkats

New Holland. Jul. 2016. 240p. photos. index. ISBN 9781921517655. $29.99. NAT HIST
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Meerkats have been the subject of TV shows and children's books, and now they are the topic of a full-length scholarly natural history account by biologist and conservationist McIlrath aka the Meerkat Man. The book broaches such subjects as taxonomy, morphology, habitats, reproduction, and diet. Most of the habits of these fascinating animals hinge on their highly communal, sociable lifestyles. A prey species, meerkats must be vigilant in looking out for potential predators. The image of a meerkat standing guard is a familiar one, and McIlrath debunks some of the ideas surrounding this "sentinel duty." Concluding chapters illustrate the importance of conservation efforts for these animals, which play an important ecological role and could potentially aid in preventing desertification. The author has spent more than 20 years in fieldwork with two of the three recognized meerkat subspecies. The intimacy he has gained through these observations is evident via the rich photographic record he presents as complement to the text. McIlrath's observational analyses are bolstered by photographic proof and make for an engaging study of this popular animal.
VERDICT Recommended for those who enjoy natural history accounts and are interested in these creatures.
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