Zoo Biology 31: 621–623 (2012)

Veure ressenya en format PDF: 

Zoo Biology 31: 621–623 (2012)

Wilson DE, Mittermeier RA, editors. 2011. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol. 2. Hoofed Mammals. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

I can easily imagine that Iwas not the only one eager to receive the secondVolume of thewell-known series of the Handbook of theMammals of the World (HMW). I could almost picture various readers, of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities, receiving this large box containing the precious item, as I did a few weeks ago. I can see the impatience and the excitement in all these eyes. Indeed, Lynx Edicions is known for its high quality publications, with the highlight being the collection of the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW), completed recently with the launching of the last volume end of 2011. The HMW, started in 2009 with the first volume about Carnivores, is now on its way and the newly released Volume 2 is a piece of work as impressive and breathtaking as one might have expected!

As usual not fully following a phylogenetic approach in their grouping, this second volume is focusing on Hoofed Mammals, presenting six orders. We find here the expected Perissodactyla and Artiodactyla, but also the Elephantidae, and three orders of smaller mammals, namely the Aardvark (Tubulidentata), the Hyraxes (Procaviidae), and the Pangolins (Pholidota). The layout of the HMW, based on the one fully developed for the HBW, is known and appreciated for its clarity, accuracy, and attractiveness. Here again, a vast range of species are described family by family on 886 pages; 664 photographs of superb quality illustrate the text and most of the taxa presented (at least at the species level) have a drawing included in one of the 56 color plates. A total of 430 distribution maps of high precision (apart for a couple species where conservation concerns have thankfully led to vague maps!) complete each species description. The most recognized experts in their field have been chosen to write each family report and the various chapters are based on more than 5,000 bibliographical references. The newHMWVolume 2 is indeed a piece work that everyone should consider to acquire for their library and, evenconsidering the relatively high sale price, it is a great value for money.

In addition to its scientific, rational, and complete approach, the HBW and the HMW are probably well known for their fantastic plates. Following his work realizedfor the first volume of the HMW, Toni Llobet took the challenge of dealing with the Hoofed Mammals of the world and his work is globally outstanding! It has never been possible so far to explore the diversity of some ungulate families with so much details and precision. A few drawings remain unclear and a bit disappointing (as maybe the elephant plate or some ungulates that not completely fit their natural phenotype; the most struggling example for me being the one of the Buffon’s Kob [Kobus kob] that I have observed recently in the wild in the Mole National Park and the Shai Hills Resource Reserve in Ghana and for which the HMW illustration does not fit clearly and could have led to a misidentification toward other kob species!). Nevertheless, it remains a real pleasure to discover some species completely unknown to me until I started to read this compilation. I could have hardly imagined the appearance of the Northern Pudu (Pudu mephistophiles), the smallest species of the Cervidae, before finding the amazing
picture proposed here on page 403. The whole genus Mazama includes also an incredible diversity, unfamiliar for me, with not less than 10 species described here.

This second Volume of the HMW, even when only approaching the diversity of hoofed mammals, has probably also set the cat among the pigeons with the whole redefinition of the Bovidae. This family traditionally comprised 143 species in 50 genera, as was published in 2005 in the latest edition of the Mammals Species of the World (2005). Based on vast and recent scientific research and studies on these species (fromwhich the results have been published recently under the title Ungulate Taxonomy by Colin P. Groves and Peter Grubb), theHMWoffers today, through the main author of this chapter Colin Groves, a description of 279 species in 54 genera, almost doubling the number of species recognized to date! The concept of species itself has been renewed to redefine the diversity of Bovidae and was based mainly on a phylogenetic approach. Various species have been split in several taxa and the conservation value of each entity has been assessed taking in account all the known variables. It is also a preservative approach, with its pros and cons, where the authors have decided that it is better to consider the smallest taxa for conservation plan, taxa which could always be merged later when further research would prove that they are part of the same entity. It is nevertheless somehow unsettling to find here the description of eight species of bushbucks (Tragelaphus sp.), four species of greater kudus (Strepsiceros sp.), three species of springboks (Antidorcas sp.), four species of blue wildebeest (Connochaetes sp.), or even 10 species of blue duikers (Philantomba sp.) andmany more! This approach, which will be for sure still under vast debate and improvement over the forthcoming years, has deep and important consequences in both in situ and ex situ conservation. Conservation plans for ungulates have included at several occasion reintroduction and translocation actions and it is of the most importance to know which taxa we are dealing with. Captive-bred groups have been used as the source for some of these conservation projects and captive breeding programs ofungulates, at the local as well as the international level, will stay a potentially important conservation tool in the coming decades. It is probably too late to reach a pure captive stock for several taxa as individuals from various sources have been mixed over several generations, but it is nevertheless very important to be able to have the most clear definition and status of the ungulates diversity and taxonomy, also for the management of captive populations.
For example, now that the Black-faced Impala (Aepyceros petersi) has been erected to the status of a different species separated from the Common Impala (Aepyceros melampus), it might be important to keep both taxa apart in captivity, at least untilfurther research would invalidate such a separation. In addition, Black-faced Impala is classified Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and translocation could be considered as a conservation tool for this species in the near future.

The European captive population of Lesser Kudus (Ammelaphus sp.) is in urgent need of new founders to extend its genetic base but the current status of the captive population and the origin of any founder would have to be clearly determined as both taxa of the Lesser Kudu are now upgraded to the species level, the Northern Lesser Kudu (Ammelaphus imberbis) and the Southern Lesser Kudu (Ammelaphus australis) (most of the European captive animals being probably originated from specimens of thelatter). The new Volume of Handbook of the Mammals of the World is clearly a challenging and fantastic piece of work! It will doubtless lead to numerous debates and discussions throughout the conservation and zoo communities. The forthcoming Volumes 3 and 4 about Primates and Sea Mammals are already under preparation and
it is with much eagerness that I am waiting for the packages to come!

REFERENCES
del Hoyo J, Elliott A, Christie DA, editors. 1992–2011. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol.1–16. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.
Groves CP, Grubb P. 2011. Ungulate taxonomy.Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Wilson DE, ReederDAM, editors. 2005. Mammalspecies of theworld: a taxonomic and geographicreference. Vol. 1–2. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Wilson DE, Mittermeier RA, editors. 2009–2011. Handbook of the mammals of the world. Vol.1–2. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Jonas Livet
http://www.leszoosdanslemonde.com
jonaslivet@leszoosdanslemonde.com