Books Received | Published:

Guide to the Whales, Porpoises, and Dolphins (Order Cetacea), exhibited in the Department of Zoology, British Museum (Natural History), Cromwell Road, London, S. W.

Nature volume 81, page 4 (01 July 1909) | Download Citation



THE whale-room in the Natural History Museum is one of the most notable and interesting features of the national collection, and the publication of a new guide to its contents calls for a word of comment. Within fifty pages Mr. Lydekker has compressed not only a series of clues to the models, skins, and other preparations, but has furnished students of zoology generally with a most useful and well-illustrated summary of the chief characters of the Cetacea and of their presumable ancestors. In a prefatory note, Dr. Harmer gives reason for confining exhibits of this order to skeletons and models, but it is to be hoped that the public will always have an opportunity of seeing the skins of some of these impressive animals, in order to judge of their proportions. The only feature of this excellent guide that we could have wished more fully expounded, relates to the puzzling vernacular names of whales that are used by fishermen. The members of our own branch of the international sea investigation are often quite at a loss to know what these names correspond to in scientific nomenclature, and their experience is not unique. The matter has some importance since the cetacean fauna of the north-western seas is probably more familiar to fisher men than to naturalists, and the fisherman's records cannot be stated precisely until we are able to understand the vernacular terms in use.

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