Top 2015 Academic Vertebrate Biology Books

These are my top 10 academic vertebrate biology books for 2015. They’re quite a diverse bunch, unlike their subject matter. Personal reviews available on request!

See the rest of this year’s book recommendations here!

This chapter is dedicated to the Deuterostomia, comprising the Echinodermata and Hemichordata (usually grouped together as the Ambulacraria) as well as the Cephalochordata and the Tunicata. [Note: Most of this is invertebrate, but the verts are lumped in here too.]


This book gathers a diverse team of renowned scientists to capture the excitement of these new discoveries in a collection that is both accessible to students and an important contribution to the future of its field. Marshaling a range of disciplines—from paleobiology to phylogenetics, developmental biology, ecology, and evolutionary biology—the contributors attack particular transformations in the head and neck, trunk, appendages such as fins and limbs, and the whole body, as well as offer synthetic perspectives. Illustrated throughout, Great Transformations in Vertebrate Evolution not only reveals the true origins of whales with legs, fish with elbows, wrists, and necks, and feathered dinosaurs, but also the relevance to our lives today of these extraordinary narratives of change.


Biology and Evolution of Crocodylians is a comprehensive review of current knowledge about the world’s largest and most famous living reptiles. Gordon Grigg’s authoritative and accessible text and David Kirshner’s stunning interpretive artwork and colour photographs combine expertly in this contemporary celebration of crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials. This book showcases the skills and capabilities that allow crocodylians to live how and where they do. It covers the biology and ecology of the extant species, conservation issues, crocodylian-human interaction and the evolutionary history of the group, and includes a vast amount of new information; 25 per cent of 1100 cited publications have appeared since 2007. Richly illustrated with more than 500 colour photographs and black and white illustrations, this book will be a benchmark reference work for crocodylian biologists, herpetologists and vertebrate biologists for years to come.


This book offers a new explanation for the development of flight in mammals and offers detailed morphological descriptions of mammals with flapping flight. The skeletomuscular apparatus of the shoulder girdle and forelimbs of tree shrews, flying lemurs and bats is described in detail. Special attention is paid to the recognition of peculiar features of the skeleton and joints. For the basic locomotor patterns of flying lemurs and bats, the kinematic models of the shoulder girdle elements are developed. The most important locomotor postures of these animals are analyzed by means of statics. The key structural characters of the shoulder girdle and forelimbs of flying lemurs and bats, the formation of which provided transition of mammals from terrestrial locomotion to gliding and then, to flapping flight, are recognized. The concept is proposed that preadaptations preceding the acquisition of flapping flight could have come from widely sprawled forelimb posture while gliding from tree to tree and running up the thick trunks. It is shown that flying lemur is an adequate morphofunctional model for an ancestral stage of bats. The evolutionary ecomorphological scenario describing probable transformational stages of typical parasagittal limbs of chiropteran ancestors into wings is developed.


  1. Herpetology

    by F. Harvey Pough [Sinauer Associates is an imprint of Oxford University Press, Hardcover]
    Price: $89.01 £46.19 EUR 71,19 EUR 68,67 EUR 69,67 EUR 66,76 CDN$ 131.32

Latest edition of the all-encompassing Herpetology textbook. No further introduction needed.


Venomous Reptiles And Their Toxins brings together the world’s leading toxinologists in this comprehensive study of the entire scope of reptile venoms, from clinical effects to evolution to drug design and development. The book contains detailed applied chapters on clinical care of the envenomed patient, ineffective traditional or modern remedies, occupational considerations involved in the maintenance of institutional venomous reptile collections, veterinary care for venomous reptiles and research methods used in venom research. This book also devotes a chapter to each toxin class found in reptile venoms, detailing the full trajectory of research on the peptide or protein in question. These chapters discuss each toxin’s respective role in the envenomation process through to how each has been explored for their biomedical potential. This book is a unique resource for anyone working with venomous reptiles.


The emphasis in this volume is on the structure and functional design of the integument. [Marc’s Note: The book blurb is as enormousas the amount of knowledge in this book. A lot of the book is devoted to flying verts if they’re your thing.]


  1. Mammalogy: Adaptation, Diversity, Ecology

    by George A. Feldhamer [Johns Hopkins University Press, Hardcover]
    Price: $78.79 £55.76 EUR 79,98 EUR 79,48 EUR 86,28 EUR 86,93 CDN$ 115.77

The latest edition of the all-encompassing Mammalogy textbook, includes an up-to-date classification and phylogeny. Worth the entrance price for that.


This book summarizes the key adaptations enabling extremophile fishes to survive under harsh environmental conditions. It reviews the most recent research on acidic, Antarctic, cave, desert, hypersaline, hypoxic, temporary, and fast-flowing habitats, as well as naturally and anthropogenically toxic waters, while pointing out generalities that are evident across different study systems. Knowledge of the different adaptations that allow fish to cope with stressful environmental conditions furthers our understanding of basic physiological, ecological, and evolutionary principles. In several cases, evidence is provided for how the adaptation to extreme environments promotes the emergence of new species. Furthermore, a link is made to conservation biology, and how human activities have exacerbated existing extreme environments and created new ones. The book concludes with a discussion of major open questions in our understanding of the ecology and evolution of life in extreme environments.


With no blind allegiance to what he once thought he knew, Chatterjee devours the new evidence and lays out the most compelling version of the birth and evolution of the avian form ever attempted. He takes us from Texas to Spain, China, Mongolia, Madagascar, Australia, Antarctica, and Argentina. He shows how, in the “Cretaceous Pompeii” of China, he was able to reconstruct the origin and evolution of flight of early birds from the feathered dinosaurs that lay among thousands of other amazing fossils.


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