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Noteworthy Books Received by the Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 8, Number 1, 2009

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 8, Number 1 (2009): 185-190

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Noteworthy Books 2009 185 185 A Natural History Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Donald W. Linzey. 2008. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN. 312 pp. $24.95, softcover. ISBN 1572336129. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America's most beautiful and popular national parks. Located in the southern Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, it is home to more than 100,000 species of plants and animals. The grandeur and sheer scale of the park has been captured in Donald W. Linzey's new book, Natural History Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the most extensive volume available on the park’s natural history. Written from the perspective of a naturalist who has spent over fifty years conducting research in the park, this volume not only discusses the park’s plant and animal life but also explores the impact that civilization has played in altering the area’s landscape. Linzey draws from a deep reservoir of research, including the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, a a concentrated effort to determine all species within a given area within a short time frame. His book provides a thorough overview of everything a visitor to the park would need to know, without complex jargon. Both casual readers and those more interested in the ecology of the Great Smoky Mountains will find this book an enlightening and educational guide. Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast. Ted Lee Eubanks, Jr., Robert A. Behrstock, and Seth Davidson. Maps by Cindy Lippincott. 2008. Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX. 258 pp. $23, softcover. ISBN 9781585445349. The Texas coast offers rich avian treasures for expert birders and beginners alike, if only they know where to look. For those familiar with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's maps to the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, this book on the Upper Texas Coast offers an abundance of information, convenient and detailed maps, pictures, finding tips, and birding advice from one of the trail's creators, Ted Lee Eubanks Jr., and trail experts Robert A. Behrstock and Seth Davidson. For those new to the trail, the book is the perfect companion for learning where to find and how to bird the very best venues on this part of the Texas coast. In an opening tutorial on habitat and seasonal strategies for birding the Upper Texas Coast, the authors include tips on how to take advantage of the famous (but elusive) fallouts of birds that happen here. They then briefl y discuss the basics of birding by ear and the rewards of passive birding before turning to the trail itself and each of more than 120 birding sites from the Louisiana-Texas border, through Galveston and Houston, to just south of Freeport. In an attractive, durable, and user-friendly format, the book includes: maps to each of 15 trail loops, with birding sites clearly marked; text directions to each site; site rating recommendations for prioritizing trips; site descriptions that feature birds likely to be found; and advice on finding bird groups. While not intended as a field identification guide, the book contains more than 175 color photographs of birds and their coastal habitat, giving readers an excellent feel for the trail’s diversity and abundance. Whether you are making your annual spring pilgrimage to Texas, leisurely traveling with the family along the coast, or wondering what to do during a layover in Houston, using this book as your guide to the trail will greatly enhance your birding experience. Evolution. Selected Letters of Charles Darwin 1860–1870. Frederick Burkhardt, Alison M. Pearn, and Samantha Evans (Editors). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2008. 336 pp. $28, hard- Noteworthy Books Received by the Southeastern Naturalist, Issue 8/1, 2009 186 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 8, No.1 cover. ISBN 9780521874120. Charles Darwin is a towering figure in the history of science, who changed the direction of modern thought by establishing the basis of evolutionary biology. With a Foreword by Sir David Attenborough, this is a fascinating insight into Darwin’s life as he first directly addressed the issues of humanity’s place in nature, and the consequences of his ideas for religious belief. Incorporating previously unpublished material, this volume includes letters written by Darwin, and also those written to him by friends and scientific colleagues worldwide, by critics who tried to stamp out his ideas, and admirers who helped them to spread. They take up the story of Darwin's life in 1860, in the immediate aftermath of the publication of On the Origin of Species, and carry it through one of the most intense and productive decades of his career, to the eve of publication of Descent of Man in 1871. The only text of its kind to contain the actual letters written to and by Darwin makes this a unique piece of publishing. Clear explanatory notes construct a narrative to the letters, providing an enjoyable read for anyone interested in Darwin. Extra biographical information about each of Darwin's correspondents bring the letters to life. Origins. Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822–1859. Anniversary Edition. Frederick Burkhardt (Editor). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2008. 286 pp. $28, hardcover. ISBN 9780521898621. Charles Darwin changed the direction of modern thought by establishing the basis of evolutionary biology. This fascinating selection of letters, offers a glimpse of his daily experiences, scientific observations, personal concerns and friendships. Beginning with a charming set of letters at the age of twelve, through his university years in Edinburgh and Cambridge up to the publication of his most famous work, On the Origin of Species in 1859, these letters chart one of the most exciting periods of Darwin's life, including the voyage of the Beagle and subsequent studies which led him to develop his theory of natural selection. Darwin’s vivid writing style enables the reader to see the world through his own eyes, as he matures from grubby schoolboy in Shropshire to one of the most controversial thinkers of modern times. A Foreword by the late Stephen Jay Gould puts the letters into their wider historical, social and scientific context. This anniversary edition includes recently discovered letters, written by Darwin as a twelve year old schoolboy, that have never been published before. Clear explanatory notes construct a narrative to the letters and interesting biographies about each character bring the book to life. Mount Rogers National Recreation Area Guidebook. A Complete Resource for Outdoor Enthusiasts, Second Edition. Johnny Molloy. 2008. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN. 288 pp. $24.95, softcover. ISBN 1572336285. Encompassing more than 140,000 acres of scenic beauty in southwestern Virginia, the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area offers outdoor enthusiasts a myriad of activities, from hiking, camping, and fishing to horseback riding, picnicking, swimming, tour driving, and biking. In the only comprehensive guidebook for this region, now newly updated, Johnny Molloy covers all of these activities and more, providing visitors with everything they need, including detailed maps, to enjoy the entire Mount Rogers area—one of the true jewels of Southern Appalachia. Molloy details the more than 430 miles of marked and maintained trails that crisscross the Mount Rogers NRA and nearby Grayson Highlands State Park. Organized both by type, such as long trails and rail trails, and the areas they cover, including West Side, Central Area, Far East, and High Country, the trail descriptions include comprehensive narratives of each hike, noting the various trail junctions, stream crossings, and trailside features, Noteworthy Books 2009 187 with their distances from the trailhead. With each trail summary is an information box that offers quick access to such pertinent data as trail type (foot, horse, and/or bike), difficulty, length, degree of use, trail connections, and highlights. Complementing the sections on the extensive trail system are chapters on many other recreational options. Anglers will find lists of the best streams and tips for both fl y and spin-cast fishing. For those seeking a way to cool off after a mountain excursion, the book locates the area’s favorite swimming holes. Molloy also reveals the best roads from which to view the gorgeous scenery and wildlife of the Mount Rogers area. Rounding out the guidebook is information on national forest and state park campgrounds, picnic areas, and accommodations and services in nearby towns, including motels, bedand- breakfasts, outfitters, and stores. Fishes of the Texas Laguna Madre. A Guide for Anglers and Naturalists. David A. McKee. 2008. Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX. 224 pp. $16.95, softcover. ISBN 9781603440288. Anglers treasure the Laguna Madre, a shallow lagoon resting along one hundred miles of the South Texas coast that offers some of the best fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Its lush environment of seagrass meadows, tidal fl ats, submerged rock, jetties, worm reefs, mangroves, oyster beds, and open bays provides shelter, food, and nursery grounds for more than 100 kinds of fish, and in its upper portion, many popular game fish are at record levels. In Fishes of the Texas Laguna Madre, longtime angler and fish biologist David A. McKee taps into a lifetime of fishing and studying the lagoon to give us an expert's guide to this estuary and the fish that live there. This book covers the natural history of the "Mother Lagoon" and provides information on the characteristics, life histories, ranges, and habits of the fish species found in this hypersaline environment. For some, and especially the "Big 5" coastal sportfish (spotted seatrout, red drum, black drum, sheepshead, and southern fl ounder), McKee offers additional notes on angling techniques, personal observations, record catches, and regulations. He also raises important conservation issues for boaters and anglers to keep in mind while enjoying this unusual ecosystem. Visitor contact information (including the location of boat docks, boat ramps, and piers) rounds out the text, along with three maps of the Laguna Madre. Excellent black-and-white drawings of the fish, the majority by the late Henry "Hank" Compton, are featured throughout. Fishes of the Texas Laguna Madre is for novices and "lagunatics" alike. It will be an invaluable guide for anglers and naturalists; canoers, kayakers, and boaters; students and teachers of fishery science; and anyone who lives near or has an interest in this unique and expansive body of water. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Southern Pine Woods. Steven B. Reichling. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL. 2008. 320 pp. $29.95, softcover. ISBN 9780813032504. This book reveals the interconnections among all reptile and amphibian species living in the pine forests from Texas to North Carolina. Moving beyond mere species identification, this innovative guide to the reptiles and amphibians of the southeastern pine forests emphasizes their interdependent ecologies and the conservation issues facing all pine woods herpetofauna. Written for a spectrum of reptile and amphibian enthusiasts, the book is organized by habitat from eastern Texas to North Carolina and south to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida. Included are detailed accounts, range maps, and color photos of the twenty-six native species or subspecies of frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, and turtles in the southern pine woods. After describing the habitat from the perspective of each individual species, Steven Reichling demonstrates the various ways in which these reptiles and amphibians have become intertwined for mutual survival in what is frequently an environment threatened by development and lumbering. He focuses on shared 188 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 8, No.1 adaptations, ecological interactions, and dependency on a very distinctive habitat. Many of the threats throughout the southern pine woods require urgent action to ensure the survival of some species. This compelling read will be of value to southeastern ecologists, herpetologists, state and federal wildlife biologists and park managers, lumber company and pine plantation personnel, as well as herpetology enthusiasts. The Louisiana Coast. Guide to an American Wetland. Gay M. Gomez. 2008. Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX. 208 pp. $24, softcover. ISBN 9781603440332. Hurricane Katrina gave the nation an urgent reminder of the extent and value of Louisiana's wetlands when daily discussions of subsidence and sedimentation revealed how much ordinary coastal processes affect humanity— and vice versa. Now, with a native Louisiana naturalist as a guide, readers can learn how best to enjoy, appreciate, and protect this vanishing landscape. Part natural history and part field guide, The Louisiana Coast takes readers across one of only three major chenier plains in the world to the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest river basin swamp on the continent, and through the network of bayous, natural levees, cypress swamps, marshes, and barrier islands of the Deltaic Plain. Color photographs illustrate chapters on vegetation, wildlife, and the rich human culture that defines Louisiana. With the intimate knowledge of one whose life has been shaped by this remarkable environment, author Gay M. Gomez leads visitors to nature trails, wildlife refuges, Audubon sanctuaries, and parks. A visitor's guide at the end of the book features destinations open to the public for wildlife watching, photography, and even hunting, fishing, crabbing, and cast netting. Everyone who lives in or visits Louisiana and anyone interested in the conservation, ecology, natural history, and geography of the region will appreciate Gomez's exploration of the land, its people, its resources, and its vulnerabilities. The Louisiana Coast will encourage readers to share the author's love for this vital, distinct, and beautiful place. The Armchair Birder. Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds. John Yow. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC. 2009. 264 pp. $25, hardcover. ISBN 9780807832790. Bird lovers, take heart! While the birding literature is filled with tales of expert observers spotting rare species in exotic locales, John Yow’s The Armchair Birder reminds us that the most fascinating birds can be the ones perched right outside our windows. In thirty-five engaging, humorous, and even irreverent essays, Yow reveals the fascinating lives of birds you probably already recognize and naturally want to know more about—because they’re the ones you see nearly every day. Following the seasons of the year, Yow covers forty-two species, from the Carolina Wren that rings in the springtime to the Sandhill Crane croaking high overhead at the end of winter. Leisurely and entertaining, the essays explore the improbable, unusual, and comical aspects of their subjects’ lives— from the philandering of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird to the occasional dipsomania of the Cedar Waxwing. Rather than bare facts and field marks, The Armchair Birder offers observations, anecdotes, and stories--not only Yow’s own, but also those of America’s classic bird writers, such as John James Audubon, Arthur Bent, and Edward Forbush, experts who saw it all and wrote with wit and passion. With The Armchair Birder, backyard birders will take new delight in the birds at their feeders, while veteran check-listers will enjoy putting their feet up. All will applaud this unique addition to bird literature, one that combines the fascination of bird life with the pleasure of good reading. How Life Began. Evolution's Three Geneses. Alexandre Meinesz. 2008. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. 296 pp. $27.50, hardcover. ISBN 9780226519319. The origin of life is a hotly debated topic. The Christian Bible states that God created the heavens and the Earth, all in about seven days roughly six thousand years ago. This episode in Genesis departs markedly from scientific theories developed over the last two centuries which hold that life appeared on Earth about 3.5 billion Noteworthy Books 2009 189 years ago in the form of bacteria, followed by unicellular organisms half a millennia later. It is this version of genesis that Alexandre Meinesz explores in this engaging tale of life's origins and evolution. How Life Began elucidates three origins, or geneses, of life— bacteria, nucleated cells, and multicellular organisms—and shows how evolution has sculpted life to its current biodiversity through four main events—mutation, recombination, natural selection, and geologic cataclysm. As an ecologist who specializes in algae, the first organisms to colonize Earth, Meinesz brings a refreshingly novel voice to the history of biodiversity and emphasizes here the role of unions in organizing life. For example, the ingestion of some bacteria by other bacteria led to mitochondria that characterize animal and plant cells, and the chloroplasts of plant cells. As Meinesz charmingly recounts, life’s grandeur is a result of an evolutionary tendency toward sociality and solidarity. He suggests that it is our cohesion and collaboration that allows us to solve the environmental problems arising in the decades and centuries to come. Rooted in the science of evolution but enlivened with many illustrations from other disciplines and the arts, How Life Began intertwines the rise of bacteria and multicellular life with Vermeer’s portrait of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the story of Genesis and Noah, Meinesz’s son’s early experiences with Legos, and his own encounters with other scientists. All of this brings a very human and humanistic tone to Meinesz’s charismatic narrative of the three origins of life. On Harper's Trail. Roland McMillan Harper, Pioneering Botanist of the Southern Coastal Plain. Elizabeth Findley Shores. 2008. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 280 pp. $42.95, hardcover. ISBN 0820331007. Roland McMillan Harper (1878-1966) had perhaps "the greatest store of field experience of any living botanist of the Southeast," according to Bassett Maguire, the renowned plant scientist of the New York Botanical Garden. However, Harper's scientific contributions, including his pioneering work on the ecological importance of wetlands and fire, were buried for decades in the enormous collection of photographs and documents he left and were obscured by his reputation as an eccentric. With this book, Elizabeth Findley Shores provides the first full-length biography of the accomplished botanist, documentary photographer, and explorer of the southern coastal plain's wilderness areas. Incorporating a wealth of detail about Harper's interests, accomplishments, and infl uences, Shores follows his entire scientific career, which was anchored by a thirty-five-year stint with the Alabama Geological Survey. Shores looks at Harper's collaboration with his brother Francis, as they traced William Bartram's route through Alabama and the Florida panhandle and Francis edited the Naturalist Edition of The Travels of William Bartram. She reveals his acquaintance with some of the most important, and sometimes controversial, scientists of his day, including Nathaniel Britton, Hugo de Vries, and Charles Davenport. Shores also explores Harper's personal relationships and the cluster of personality traits that sparked his interest in genetic predestination and other concepts of the eugenics movement. Roland Harper described dozens of plant species and varieties, published hundreds of scientific papers, and made notable contributions to geography and geology. In addition to explaining Harper's eminence among southeastern naturalists, this story spans fundamental shifts in the biological sciences-from an emphasis on field observation to a new focus on life at the molecular level, and from the dawn of evolutionary theory to the modern synthesis to sociobiology. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia. Edited by John B. Jensen, Carlos D. Camp, Whit Gibbons, and Matt J. Elliott. 2008. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 595 pp. $39.95, softcover. ISBN 0820331112. A hidden world of amphibians and reptiles awaits the outdoor adventurer in Georgia's streams, caves, forests, and wetlands. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia makes accessible a wealth of information about 170 species of frogs, salamanders, crocodilians, lizards, snakes, and turtles. Throughout, the book stresses conservation, documenting declines in individual species as well as losses of local and regional populations. Color photographs are 190 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 8, No.1 paired with detailed species accounts, which provide information about size, appearance, and other identifying characteristics of adults and young; taxonomy and nomenclature; habits; distribution and habitat; and reproduction and development. Typical specimens and various life stages are described, as well as significant variations in such attributes as color and pattern. Line drawings define each group's general features for easy field identification. Range maps show where each species occurs in Georgia county by county, as well as in the United States generally. State maps depict elevations, streams, annual precipitation, land use changes, physiographic provinces, and average temperatures. Introductory sections provide overviews of physiography, climate, and habitats of Georgia, the Georgia Herp Atlas Project, taxonomic issues, conservation, and herpetology as a science and a career. This book includes a checklist, a chart of the evolutionary relationships among amphibians and reptiles, a list of the top ten most reported species by major group, and a table summarizing the diversity of amphibians and reptiles in the state's five physiographic provinces. It also features nearly 500 color photographs, 24 line drawings showing each group's defining features, almost 200 range maps detailing county-by-county distribution, and detailed species accounts written by 54 regional experts providing information on size, appearance, and other identifying characteristics of adults and young, taxonomy and nomenclature, habits, distribution and habitat, and reproduction and development. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia is an authoritative reference for students, professional herpetologists, biologists, ecologists, conservationists, land managers, and amateur naturalists. Frogs and Toads of the Southeast. Mike Dorcas and Whit Gibbons. 2008. University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 238 pp. $22.95, softcover. ISBN 0820329223. With more than forty native and introduced species of frogs and toads occurring in the southeastern United States, the region represents the heart of frog and toad diversity in the country. Renowned herpetologists Mike Dorcas and Whit Gibbons provide us with the most comprehensive and authoritative, yet accessible and fun-to-read, guide to these sometimes wet, sometimes warty wonders of nature. Dorcas and Gibbons enumerate the distinguishing characteristics of frogs and toads, including how they are different from other amphibians and the differences between a frog and a toad. Also discussed are the morphology of frogs and toads, the main groups to be found in the Southeast, and their habitats. Individual species accounts contain a physical description of the species plus information about distribution and habitat, behavior and activity, food and feeding, predators and defense, calls and vocalizations, reproduction and description of eggs and tadpoles, and conservation. Accompanying each account are photographs illustrating typical adults and variations and distribution maps for the Southeast and the United States. Given the recent worldwide decline in amphibian populations and increasing scientific and popular concern for what these declines mean for all other organisms, This book features a conservationoriented approach, approximately 250 color photographs, approximately 45 distribution maps, clear description and photographs of each species in both tadpole and adult stages, and chapters on identification, vocalizations, reproduction, global diversity (including remarkable species such as the gastric brooding frog, poison dart frogs, and saltwater frogs), and introduced species. Frogs and Toads of the Southeast will appeal to people of all ages and levels of knowledge interested in natural history and conservation and will help foster the growing interest in frogs and toads as well as cultivate a desire to protect and conserve these fascinating amphibians and their habitats. The Southeastern Naturalist welcomes submissions of review copies of books that publishers or authors would like to recommend to the journal’s readership and are relevant to the journal’s mission of publishing information about the natural history of the southeastern US. Accompanying short, descriptive summaries of the text are also welcome.