The overall structure of this reference work is based on the classification of animals into naturally related groups, a discipline known as taxonomy—the science in which various organisms are discovered, identified, described, named, classified, and catalogued. Starting with the simplest life forms, the lower metazoans and lesser deuterostomes, in Volume 1, the series progresses through the more advanced classes of classes, culminating with the mammals in Volumes 12-16. Volume 17 is a stand-alone cumulative index.
Organization of chapters within each volume reinforces the taxonomic hierarchy. In the case of the volume on Reptiles, introductory chapters describe general characteristics of the class Reptilia, followed by taxonomic chapters dedicated to order and family. Species accounts appear at the end of family chapters. To help the reader grasp the scientific arrangement, each type of taxonomic chapter has a distinctive color and symbol:
• = Order Chapter (blue background)
▲ = Family Chapter (yellow background)
▲ = Monotypic Order Chapter (green background)
As chapters narrow in focus, they become more tightly formatted. Introductory chapters have a loose structure, reminiscent of the first edition. Although not strictly formatted, chapters on orders are carefully structured to cover basic information about the group. Chapters on families are the most tightly structured, following a prescribed format of standard rubrics that make information easy to find. These chapters typically include:
Thumbnail introduction Common name Scientific name Class Order Suborder Family
Thumbnail description Size
Number of genera, species Habitat
Conservation status Main chapter
Evolution and systematics
Feeding ecology and diet Reproductive biology Conservation status Significance to humans Species accounts Common name Scientific name Subfamily Taxonomy
Other common names
Feeding ecology and diet Reproductive biology Conservation status Significance to humans
Resources Books Periodicals Organizations Other
Was this article helpful?