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Reptiles and Amphibians of the Pacific Islands

Reptiles and Amphibians of the Pacific Islands: A Comprehensive Guide

George R. Zug
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Reptiles and Amphibians of the Pacific Islands
    Book Description:

    The Pacific is not only the world’s largest body of water; its vast expanse also includes an extraordinary number and diversity of oceanic islands, from Palau and the Marianas east of the Philippines to Cocos Island and the Galápagos west of the Americas. The isolation of these islands and the extreme distances between them long prevented scientists from studying their floras and faunas in a comparative context. But now George R. Zug, one of the world's foremost experts on the diverse reptiles and amphibians of the Pacific Basin, offers the first such systematic overview in more than half a century. Reptiles and Amphibians of the Pacific Islands is a compendium of frogs, lizards, snakes, and turtles living on these lands and in the adjacent waters of the oceanic islands in the tropical Pacific. The means to identify each species is included, along with entries that describe each animal's form, coloration, habitat, distribution, reproductive biology, and natural history. Color plates of more than 75 percent of the species also help to facilitate visual identification. This accessible and informative guide is the most comprehensive field guide available and will appeal to both novice sightseers and professional naturalists.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95540-0
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    The Pacific Ocean is a remnant of the once great sea that surrounded the supercontinent Pangaea. As Pangaea broke up and its fragments began to move apart, the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans developed. Although the Pacific Ocean is only a shadow of its former self, it remains the largest of our present oceans and covers about a third of the Earth’s surface, roughly 180 million square kilometers (about 70 million square miles).

    The floor of the Pacific Ocean lies at an average depth of 4,000 meters, with its deepest spot—more than 11 kilometers (36,198 ft)—found in the...

  5. Island and Island Group Herpetofaunas
    (pp. 9-50)

    My division and arrangement of the islands and island groups of the tropical Pacific are largely arbitrary. The herpetofaunal lists are presented north to south and sweep in broad latitudinal bands from west to east. These bands are arranged to reflect the principal direction in which the Pacific islands were colonized, with the exception of the East Pacific islands near the coastline of the Americas. TheNorth Pacificband includes six island groups: the Bonin and Volcano Islands (Ogasawara Archipelago); the Hawaiian Islands; the Northern Mariana Islands (includes Rota); Guam; Wake Island; and Johnston Atoll. TheWest- and North-Centralband...


      (pp. 51-54)

      Each animal group has a set of traits that biologists use to identify the different species (taxa). Size is one of the major features used for identification, although it is confounded by growth. Size data are for sexually mature individuals (adults) herein, unless stated otherwise. In the general descriptions, “size” refers to snout-vent length (SVL) for amphibians, lizards, and snakes. Total length (TotL = SVL + tail length) is given for snakes when SVL is not readily available. Shell length (straight-line carapace length, or SCL) is the standard for turtles. Because size differs among the groups, the descriptors “small,” “medium,”...

    • Identification Plates:
      (pp. None)
    • FROGS
      (pp. 55-78)

      Frog is a frog is a frog is a frog, to borrow from Gertrude Stein’s line “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” in her poem “Sacred Emily.” Having seen one frog, we are able to recognize all other frogs as frogs. Frogs are unique among vertebrates in having a short tailless body, the head seemingly attached directly to the body without a neck, and the forelimbs smaller than the hindlimbs. Most frogs move by bipedal jumping, powered by strong, robust hindlimbs. This form of jumping locomotion is assumed to have driven the evolution of the unique...

      (pp. 79-212)

      Lizards are the dominant terrestrial reptile of the tropical Pacific. If an island is large and high enough to support a reptile, that reptile will be a species of lizard. Lizards have proved to be the most successful island colonizers among terrestrial vertebrates, excluding birds that fly easily across saltwater barriers. Reptiles are characterized by cornified (keratinized) skin; in lizards, the skin surface is composed of scales. These scales range from small abutting granules, blocks, and tubercles to large, shiny, overlapping scales, and they occur in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and surfaces. This keratinized skin cover makes lizards nearly...

    • SNAKES
      (pp. 213-238)

      Snakes are uncommon residents of Pacific islands, and land-living snakes are often uncommon or inconspicuous. Terrestrial species are modestly diverse, representing five families of snakes: blindsnakes, boas, colubrids, elapids, and homalopsids. The evolution of unique species on distant islands attests to the arrival of some snakes well prior to arrival of humans in the Pacific. All but one of the Pacific terrestrial snakes are nonvenomous, and the venomous one—the Bola (Elapidae) of Fiji—is small and disinclined to bite; however, a word of caution: seakraits spend considerable time ashore and often are abundant in the above-tide areas in some...

      (pp. 239-266)

      Everyone recognizes a turtle. The body encased in a shell is a dead give-away. No other group of extant vertebrates has its vertebrae and ribs fused into a dorsal shield (carapace) and part of its sternum fused with dermal bones forming a ventral shield (plastron). Both the pectoral and pelvic girdles lie within the carapace and plastron. Additionally, all turtles have a neck of eight vertebrae. This constant neck morphology has internal differences that result in two different mechanisms of head retraction. While most turtles withdraw their heads directly backwards with a vertical flexure of the neck, and are awkwardly...

      (pp. 267-270)

      Crocodilians are recognized instantly by everyone. Crocodilians, like sharks, fascinate because of the potential behavior of a few species to attack and eat humans, so everyone has a mental image of a “crocodile.” The elongate, armored body and tail with robust, long-snouted head and fully toothed jaw are uniquely crocodilian among living vertebrates. There are three groups of these toothy jawed, armored reptiles: true crocodiles (Crocodylidae); gharials (Gavialidae); and alligators and caimans (Alligatoridae). All are semi-aquatic, spending much of their lives in water although emerging regularly to bask along the water’s edge and all lay eggs on shore, either in...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 271-276)
  8. Checklist of Pacific Island Amphibians and Reptiles
    (pp. 277-286)
  9. Appendix: Sources for Illustrations
    (pp. 287-298)
  10. Index of Common English Names
    (pp. 299-302)
  11. Index of Scientific Names
    (pp. 303-306)