Summary and Synthesis for Neotropical Mammals


Diversidad y Conservación de los Mamíferos Neotropicales. Ceballos, G., and J. A. Simonetti, editors. 2002. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, Mexico, Distrito Federal, Mexico. 582 pp. $15.00. ISBN 970–9000–18–7.

The Neotropical realm extends from the southernmost tip of Argentina to Central Mexico, although many Neotropical species venture into northern Mexico and farther north. This vast region holds the greatest diversity of mammals on Earth—1100 species. Many new species and even genera are being found every year, some as large as Mesoplodons and peccaries or charismatic monkeys, including of course a number of rodents and other small mammals. This is a glimpse of the interesting information to be found in Diversidad y Conservación de los Mamíferos Neotropicales (Diversity and Conservation of Neotropical Mammals), edited by Gerardo Ceballos and Javier A. Simoneti.

Fourteen of the 21 continental Neotropical countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela) and one insular country (Cuba) are included in this book. Together these areas cover over 19.5 million km2, nearly the entire surface of the Neotropics. The number of species per country ranges from 89 in Cuba, because of its insular situation, to 564 in Brazil, the largest country in the Neotropics.

The chapters, one per country, present information on the history of mammalogy, which most often is linked with the history of the biological research in the country, from the first explorations to the present. In some cases—Mexico and Brazil—biological studies started in Colonial times, whereas in others—Bolivia and Guyana—the first surveys date from the late nineteenth century, a situation that is likely reflected in the current state of knowledge for these countries. The chapter authors divide their countries by ecoregion for the analysis of mammalian fauna, which gives a good and informative overview of the country's landscape and provides a useful general reference for anyone planning a trip to the region. An analysis of the species diversity is presented that, in most cases, includes analysis by corporal mass, trophic guilds, patterns of distribution, and zoogeography and is accompanied by a list of species for each country—with two notorious exceptions, Mexico and Venezuela. The final section is on conservation and includes lists of threatened species, threats to biodiversity, and conservation initiatives.

The language of the chapters is accessible to nonspecialized readers, with common names of species or higher taxa used in text and species' lists. The only exception is the chapter on Argentina, in which only scientific names are provided. The book is well designed, with numerous maps, graphs, and tables, as well as a few photographs, forming a nicely presented piece. Diversidad y Conservación de los Mamíferos Neotropicales will be important to mammalogists and anyone else interested in mammals in the Neotropics, but the sections on history and conservation will be valuable to a wider audience.