A Guide to North American Species
by Mark Elbroch
Mark Elbroch has done it again! Taking a subject matter that is seriously under-represented in the literature, he has produced a tome that is more than simply "better" than anything else on the market; it is entirely encyclopedic in scope, with more than 700 pages detailing the skulls of 275 North American mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Animal Skulls includes hundreds of photos and exacting illustrations, plus tables of measurements to help you identify skulls with precision and confidence.
Elbroch's book is a welcome resource to me. As a teenager I occasionally brought skulls to the university to compare them with others in a display cabinet. But it was never convenient to do so, and I am far more busy now as an adult. Some skulls I have identified with the aid of other bones on hand, or purely through process of elimination when there were few choices to confuse them with, but other skulls became unsolved mysteries when I lacked the necessary resources or time to explore them further. Now, with the aid of Elbroch's book, I am thrilled to identify with certainty several mysterious skulls that have sat in my office for years.
Animal Skulls is technical in its detail, with lots of measurements, tables, and many new words for the lay person, but it is formatted well, and easy to grasp the fundamentals quickly. In my first pass, I made educated guesses, then checked those species in the book to either confirm or refute my hypothesis. If wrong, I simply guessed again. In other words, if the technical jargon seems daunting, at least you can get started without it and pick it up as you go.
There is nothing I hate more than walking away from a mystery, and now, with the aid of Animal Skulls I won't have to. Having Elbroch's book at my finger tips is like having the university display case right in my own house!
In addition to skull identification, Elbroch provides some basic forensic training, teaching you how to interpret marks, breaks, and punctures to determine what kind of damage may have been inflicted while alive, at death, or sometime later. Elbroch shows how to approximate the age of animal (younger or older) when it died, and reveals how to determine the animal's sex, at least in some specimens. Also included in the book is an overview of techniques for cleaning skulls using hot or cold water or live beetles. Animal Skulls is an essential book for any naturalist's library. Stackpole Books. ISBN: 978-0-8117-3309-0. 727 Pages. 2006.
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