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Tuatara: Volume 18, Issue 1, July 1970

Mammals in Hawaii: A Synopsis and Notational Bibliography

page 46

Mammals in Hawaii: A Synopsis and Notational Bibliography.

Hawaii, like New Zealand, is a group of oceanic islands with a pauperate indigenous mammal fauna and a lengthy history of introduced exotic species that have brought with them problems ranging from the careful conservation of game stocks to the control of animal pests. The appearance of this book is therefore of particular interest to New Zealand biologists as well as to students of mammalian introductions and of mammals generally. It also comes as a timely reference book in view of the proposed International Biological Programme investigations of the Hawaiian fauna and flora.

Following the introductory section, the book is divided into four parts. The first of these is a check list which is presented clearly and simply, using only the ordinal, family, generic and specific names based on Simpson's classification of mammals. Appended to each group is a common name and we are told whether each species is ‘indigenous’, ‘immigrant’, or ‘introduced’. A table showing the distribution of mammals separates the check list from the individual accounts of each species. These latter are each headed by brief notes on the original description of the species, type locality, native range and a more general section that includes the history of introduction or immigration (except in the case of the endemic bat), notes on control or management (where relevant), ecology, and references to the works of other authors. A miscellany entitled ‘Perspectives in Hawaiian Mammalogy’ precedes a substantial annotated bibliography.

The general layout, as described above, is good and orderly, although for the reader not familiar with the Hawaiian geography I feel that the sole map would have been more useful placed next to the table of distribution, earlier in the book, rather than in the chapter on ‘Perspectives’ near the end. Another minor fault in layout can be found in the occasional mixing of information from Hawaiian and overseas sources (e.g. as in the section on parasites and diseases). There would be no risk of confusing the reader if, where possible, overseas comparisons were kept separate or consistently discussed at the end of each section.

Turning now to content, I wonder whether in a book of this kind it is necessary to give a detailed account of the Linnaean system of classification. Working biologists should already be familiar with the system, and if a wider audience is envisaged for the book, then a short note (with appropriate references) should suffice for the serious amateur naturalist. I would also question the value of short, anecdotal accounts of aberrant or other behaviour patterns observed in some of the species examined by the author. These observations seem to be page 47 incidental in nature and have no direct relationship to the theme of the book.

The text is illustrated with a number of photographs. Most of these are good, although some (e.g. the photographs of feral cattle) are not of particularly high quality. Bearing in mind the difficulties encountered in taking good photographs of such animals, and the author's desire to be consistent and illustrate all the species he discusses, I wonder if it might have been better to omit such examples.

In going through the book, one is aware that the author has combed through a substantial literature, and nowhere is this better reflected than in the excellent annotated bibliography. This presents a vast range of material, from newspaper articles to formal scientific papers, all concisely annotated. This is a most valuable source of references for any worker in the field.

I can sum up by saying that this book is an interesting and valuable addition to the literature on Pacific mammals and that the minor criticisms above do not detract from the fact that this is a worthy publication in observation of the eightieth anniversary of the founding of the Bishop Museum.