EC — Biological Sciences

Der große Kosmos-Naturführer Tiere und Pflanzen [The Comprehensive Kosmos Nature Guide to Animals and Plants]. Wilfried Stichmann. 2d ed. Stuttgart: Franckh-Kosmos, 2006. 895 p. ill. 20 cm. ISBN 978-3-440-10256-5; ISBN 3-440-10256-4: EUR 14.50 [06-1-152]

This Kosmos visual dictionary combines two pocket guides that were previously published as separate volumes. The guide contains information on 1900 species of animals and plants in Central Europe and is aimed at the beginning nature explorer. Each page presents a table of five entries with a description of the animal or plant on the left, and the image on the right,

The section on animals includes a useful introduction to biology for beginners, and a chapter with rudimentary information on environmental protection and the protection of endangered animals. The entries on animals are divided between vertebrates and invertebrates; each entry includes markings, size, habitat and interesting facts about mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The section on plants includes an overview of seeded plants and types of growth patterns, and an introduction to the twelve most important plant families for Central Europe. The tables list special markings and shapes, growing zones and interesting facts. The section focuses on blossom plants, but includes information on ferns, mosses, mushrooms, lichens and algae.

The strength of the volumes includes a comprehensive name index and high quality photographs. Improvements are needed in the combination of the two guides, for example, the invertebrate section refers to images that are available in the separate editions of these pocket guides, but are not included in the combined desk reference volume, and the bibliography does not reflect the latest literature. On the whole, the guide is comprehensive enough for the beginning explorer, but not detailed enough for the study of particular animal or plant species. [rj/hm]

BLV-Handbuch Bäume und Sträucher [BLV Handbook of Trees and Shrubs]. Ulrich Hecker. 4th rev. ed. München: BLV-Buchverlag, 2006. 478 p. ill. 22 cm. (Der zuverlässige Naturführer). ISBN 978-3-8354-0021-4; ISBN 3-8354-0021-5: EUR 12.95 [06-1-155]

This handbook of trees and shrubs introduces the reader to a wide variety of plants that occur naturally in Central European forests, as well as non-native species that have been planted in gardens and parks. Not counting subspecies and variants, more than 200 plant species are introduced in this book. Introductory chapters describe, among other things, the morphology of deciduous and evergreen plants (well illustrated), plant communities, and factors in deforestation.

In the main body of the book, plant species are organized according to the four criteria: characteristics (size, shape, morphology), location, distribution, and genus. Under each plant description, detailed drawings of its bud, leaf, and blossom accompanied by photographs of bark and the whole plant help characterize the species. Particularly nice are the side-by-side pictures of deciduous trees with and without leaves. Other information on the plant may include history of its discovery, explanation of its name, diseases and pests, and agricultural use. The appendix includes a bibliography and separate indexes of German names, technical terms and scientific names.

It seems the author and the publisher are not in agreement regarding the purpose of this book; while the author writes in the introduction that it is not meant to be used as a plant identification guide, the publisher advertises it as that very thing. Regardless, it is a compact and excellent reference work that would be a suitable acquisition for any type of library. [jr/hh]

Fauna germanica: die Käfer des Deutschen Reiches [Fauna Germanica: The Beetles of the German Empire]. Edmund Reitter. Resetting and Facsimile of the 5-volume ed. (Stuttgart, 1908-1916). Berlin: Directmedia, 2006. 1 CDROM (Digitale Bibliothek; 134) ISBN 3-89853-534-7: EUR 30 [06-1-156]

A newly digitized version of Reitter’s multi-volume work is now available on CD-ROM. It comes with a booklet that covers installation instructions and provides an overview of the many features, although special instructions explaining how to use the Reitter are lacking. According to the introduction, the digitized edition provides an unaltered facsimile of “the complete text, every illustration and the 168 plates.” Unfortunately, this statement is not quite true. For example, the index of genus and species, available in the print version and which provides a reference to specific pages, was not digitized. Likewise, the title page, text and illustrations from the boards were also not included.

The CD provides a very user-friendly, full-text search option, which is an improvement over the print version. For example, whereas a search for “Abax” in the index of the first volume only refers to one page, using the full-text search option in the CD, four instances are found, including a reference to an illustrative plate. Similarly, because it is possible to enlarge images, it is easier to discern the details of illustrations and plates than it is in the print, which makes it a valuable upgrade to the print edition.

Fauna germanica is freely available on the Internet at http://www.zum.de/stueber. While it is lacking the search functionality of the CD, it is a complete digitized version. [jr/jmw]

Kosmosführer Vögel: die 150 wichtigsten Vögel nach Farbe bestimmen [Kosmos Bird Guide: Identifying the 150 Most Important Birds According to Color]. Marc Duquet. Stuttgart: Franckh-Kosmos, 2005. 194 p. ill. 21 cm. ISBN 3-440-10250-5: EUR 14.95 [06-1-157]

The new Kosmosführer Vögel is, according to the foreword, geared to the needs of newcomers to the field of ornithology. It identifies 150 of approximately 500 species of birds found in Europe. The illustrations in the identification section are excellent. Notes indicate identifying markings, and insets depict rarer examples. Identification based on coloration has its pitfalls, thus the illustrations show males in spring plumage. The guide fails, however, in its efforts to identify birds whose coloring differs by sex such as blackbirds and reed buntings.

The second section of the book, titled “Portraits and Species,” provides additional useful information such as size, weight, and diet. There is a handsome photograph of each species, in which the bird is shown in its natural habitat. Scientific names are also provided here. The index of German names refers to only this section and not the main section of the volume. Topics including bird watching, classifying, and assisting birds, which tackles the vexing question of winter feeding, are addressed here. The chapter titled “Further Considerations” includes a bibliography for further reading, primarily consisting of titles from the Kosmos-Verlag, and provides names and addresses of societies concerned with the protection of nature and birds. Some of the addresses are not up-to-date and should be corrected in future editions.

This field guide, with its exquisite illustrations, is stylish and a useful and not overwhelming resource for the beginner. [jr/jmw]

Was fliegt denn da?: Der Klassiker [Birds on the Wing: The Classic Guide]. Peter H. Barthel and Paschalis Dougalis. Stuttgart: Franckh-Kosmos, 2006. 191 p. ill. Maps. 20 cm. (Kosmos-Naturführer). ISBN 978-3-440-09977-3; ISBN 3-440-09977-6: EUR 9.95 [06-1-158]

With a 70-year publication history, Was fliegt denn da was recently published with new text and 1,700 illustrations, covering all the bird species in Europe. Concise introductory sections deal with ornithology in general and the associated equipment, describe the morphological characteristics and plumage of the birds, and address topics such as songs, behavior, and reproduction. Following this, an overview section presents the 26 orders and 73 families of birds in Europe and includes an illustration of a typical family representative, its general and special features, which complement the details in the identification section.

Quick identification is facilitated by the presence of a listing of families, accompanied by color charts from the identification section. The identification section comprises 136 pages. The scientific and German names of each species are given, together with size and wingspan. Identifying criteria include markings, song, habitat, and extent, although space is very limited for this information.

The illustrations that accompany the descriptive text are excellent and clearly delineate the gender and age differences of the species. For many species, an illustration of the bird in flight is included. Following the identification section are seven tables arranged by season and habitat, as well as the songs and calls of the birds. However, a written transcription of the songs meant to facilitate recognition may not be of much use to the novice birder. CDs or DVDs of bird songs are better equipped for this purpose.

The German-language media in the section on additional materials are briefly annotated and divided into books, audio materials, and magazines. The small number of ornithological clubs and stations are very up to date. An index of the German and scientific names closes the book.

Was fliegt denn da is a classic—now in a new layout. This title is a handy and affordable identification book with a plethora of details that is suited for novice and advanced birders. It belongs in the pockets of those in the field, rather than on the shelves of flibraries. [jr/jb]

BLV-Handbuch Vögel [BLV Handbook of Birds]. Einhard Bezzel. 3d rev. ed. München: BLV-Buchverlag, 2006. 543 p. ill. 22 cm. (Der zuverlässige Naturführer) ISBN 978-3-8354-0022-1; ISBN 3-8354-0022-3: EUR 12.95 [06-1-159]

This handbook by the famous ornithologist Einhard Bezzel is not an identification guide in the true sense, though the back cover text by the publisher sells it as a combination of such a guide and a reference work. It is instead, a comprehensive introduction to the fascinating world of birds.

The general section covers the following topics among others: identifying birds, the birdwatcher’s gear, a systematic survey of the material, and habitats of birds. The chapters are impressively detailed. The transition to the descriptive section is a little abrupt and begins with the red-throated loon. One species follows another with no discernible structure. A separation into the 18 orders that encompass all of the birds that occur in Central Europe would be desirable here. One can only guess at the total number of species described, perhaps around 260.

Each description includes a drawing and at least one photograph of the bird in its habitat and contains sections on characteristics, distribution and occurrence, reproduction and feeding. These are often enhanced by information on biology, behavior, and history. The author is a master at presenting his vast knowledge in a compact and easy-to-understand form. A brief appendix with 22 bird species considered “exceptional guests,” a bibliography that includes periodicals, and indexes of German names, technical terms, and scientific names rounds out the volume.

This is an excellent handbook of Central European birds that would be a suitable acquisition for any type of library. [jr/hh]

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Last update: October 2010 [LC]
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