Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book of the Week: The Illustrations of Erpétologie Générale

For this week's book of the week, we feature the beautiful illustrations of André Marie Constant Duméril's Erpétologie générale, ou, Histoire naturelle complète des reptiles, found within the 1854 Atlas volume. In this nine volume work, 1,393 species of reptiles and amphibians are described, and "their anatomy, physiology and bibliography are specified." Interestingly, despite the recent advancements of many of his contemporaries, Duméril still asserted that amphibians and reptiles were of the same class.

Duméril was a French zoologist and professor of anatomy, herpetology, and ichthyology at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. His son, Auguste Duméril, was also a zoologist and collaborated with his father on this work.

Take a moment to explore the lovely illustrations accompanying the impressive work of André Marie Constant Duméril. And don't miss the chance to peruse Duméril's other zoological works in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book of the Week: Animals of the Past

While much of the focus today has been concentrated on the existing life on planet Earth, and how to protect and preserve it, there is still a great deal of interest, and indeed things to be learned, from that life which has ceased to exist on our planet. With this in mind, we focus this week on the title Animals of the Past (1901) by Frederic A. Lucas. By his own admission, the author describes the intention of this book as:

As such, this book highlights some of the more interesting or popular of these ancient animals, a few of which will also be highlighted here through the beautiful illustrations found within its pages. Take some time to take a look at these and the other fascinating creatures of the past as we strive not only to learn in this present age, but also to learn from the past, so we do not lose what we have.

This week's book of the week, Animals of the Past (1901) by Frederic A. Lucas, was contributed by the Smithsonian Institution.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book of the Week: BHL Requests

Last summer, 2010, we implemented a scanning request form by which our user community can request titles to be scanned and added to our ever-growing online collection. The feature was a runaway success, with 787 requests received to date. As we work to fulfill these requests, we thought it might be nice to highlight just a few of the rare item requests we've scanned thus far. So, without further ado:

Chronique Orchideenne (1897-1907), v. 1-2

And remember, if you have any titles that you've been wanting to see in BHL, fill out our request form and, provided condition, availability and subject matter are appropriate, we'll gladly add it to our request queue for scanning.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Biodiversity Heritage Library & JSTOR Plant Science

Chris Freeland, BHL Technical Director, gave the following presentation at the 4th Annual Global Plants Initiative Meeting in Panama, covering the progress of BHL to date and the way these two resources are integrated for the benefit of the world's plant scientists.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book of the Week: So You Saw Jaws and You Think You Know Sharks?

You would be hard-pressed to find someone today who has not seen the legendary Jaws movie. The movie defined a generation and solidified sharks as one of the most gruesome and dangerous killers on the planet. But such misconceptions are an injustice to this diverse, and often harmless, order of fish, some of which reach a mature length shorter than that of an average housecat.

Case in point: Meet Eridacnis radcliffei, also known by the common name of the Pygmy Ribbontail Cat Shark, which, at 19-24 centimeters, is one of the smallest sharks in the world. Eridacnis radcliffei is a member of the Carcharhiniformes order, "typical" sharks characterized by "long mouths, two dorsal fins without spines, an anal fin, and the eyes over the mouth." These sharks differ from sharks in other orders "in having movable lower eyelids."

Occuring around continental and insular shelves, the Pygmy Ribbontail Cat Shark is found in the western Indo-Pacific from Tanzania to the Philippines. Its diet consists mostly of bony fishes, crustaceans and squid. This species is of minimal importance to the fishing industry, being sometimes caught in bottom trawls off the coast of the Philippines but not typically sold in the industry. They are currently listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN.

This week's book of the week, v. 24, n. 4 (1981) of Oceanus, contains a very interesting article by Leonard J. V. Compagno, entitled "Legend versus Reality: The Jaws Image and Shark Diversity." In it, he tackles the widely-accepted conception that all sharks are behemoths that can be "typified by large and powerful species." Such impressions have been encouraged by the advent of films such as Jaws and Deep Blue Sea, which represent sharks as monstrous goliaths capable of, should they so choose, swallowing humans whole.

Within this article, Compagno takes an objective look at the superorder of Selachimorpha - sharks - finding that, in the 296 shark species that he studied, only about 4% were more than 4 meters long. And our friend, the Pygmy Ribbontail Cat Shark, gets its moment in the spotlight on pages 15-16, were it is highlighted as one of the smallest shark species in the world.

Take a few moments to flip through Compagno's article, possibly re-evaluating your conception of the shark as a giant killer to the beautifully diverse range of aquatic species that it is. And to learn even more about our highlighted species, the Pygmy Ribbontail Cat Shark, explore its page on the Encylopedia of Life.

This week's book of the week, v. 24, no. 4 (1981) of Oceanus, was contributed by the MBL WHOI library.