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[Book Reviews]

Nature volume 50, page 267 | Download Citation



MR. LYDEKKER'S capacity for book-making seems to be unlimited. Zoological science is indebted to him for the diffusion of accurate knowledge on the fowl of the air, and “every living thing that creepeth upon the earth” and moves in the sea, from the days when the icthyosaurus disported itself in the Jurassic ocean to the present enlightened age. He is not, however, a brilliant writer, and all his works possess a sameness of diction, the dead level of which becomes oppressive after a time. The volume under review is a “popular monograph,” in which the Marsupials and Monotremes are taken in order and have their characters, distribution, and habits detailed in a more or less attractive manner. These interesting mammals are dealt with one after another, and their characteristics are described in a way that strongly reminds us of the verbal expositions of the guide of a menagerie. The thirty-eight excellently coloured plates, with which the book is embellished, help to render the analogy more realistic. This monotony, however, is probably unavoidable in a work having the scope of Mr. Lydekker's handbook, and, in fairness to him, we must say that he has struck a good compromise between zoological treatises bristling with technical details, and works designed for the profoundly ignorant. It is almost unnecessary to say that the book is thoroughly up-to-date as regards recently discovered species, one of the most interesting of these being the remarkable Marsupial Mole described by Dr. Stirling a few years ago. With the exception of the matter relating to a few species, the book is founded upon Mr. Oldfield Thomas's “Catalogue of the Marsupialia and Monotremata in the Collection of the British Museum” (1888), with the addition of some notes on fossil species of these Orders. Mr. Lydekker has made an admirable and handy abridgment of this “indispensable compendium,” and his work, though stodgy in places, will well serve the purpose of a popular book of reference on Australian mammals.

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