In preparing the volume on Reptiles, the editors relied primarily on the taxonomic structure outlined in Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles, 2nd edition, edited by George R. Zug, Laurie J. Vitt, and Janalee P. Caldwell (2001). Systematics is a dynamic discipline in that new species are being discovered continuously, and new techniques (e.g., DNA sequencing) frequently result in changes in the hypothesized evolutionary relationships among various organisms. Consequently, controversy often exists regarding classification of a particular animal or group of animals; such differences are mentioned in the text.
Grzimek,s has been designed with ready reference in mind, and the editors have standardized information wherever feasible. For Conservation Status, Grzimek,s follows the IUCN Red List system, developed by its Species Survival Commission. The Red List provides the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plants and an imals. Using a set of criteria to evaluate extinction risk, the IUCN recognizes the following categories: Extinct, Extinct in the Wild, Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Conservation Dependent, Near Threatened, Least Concern, and Data Deficient. For a complete explanation of each category, visit the IUCN web page at <http://www.iucn.org/ themes/ssc/redlists/categor.htm>.
In addition to IUCN ratings, chapters may contain other conservation information, such as a species' inclusion on one of three Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) appendices. Adopted in 1975, CITES is a global treaty whose focus is the protection of plant and animal species from unregulated international trade.
In the Species accounts throughout the volume, the editors have attempted to provide common names not only in English but also in French, German, Spanish, and local dialects. Unlike for birds, there is no official list of common names for reptiles of the world, but for species in North America an official list does exist: Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America, North of Mexico, with Comments Regarding Confidence in our Understanding, edited by Brian I. Crother (2000). A consensus of acceptable common names in English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish for European species exists in the Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe, edited by Jean-Pierre Gasc, et al. (1997). Two books purportedly contain common names of reptiles worldwide, but these are names mostly coined by the authors and do not necessarily reflect what the species are called in their native countries. The first of these books, Dictionary of Animal Names in Five Languages. Amphibians and Reptiles, by Natalia B. Anajeva, et al. (1988), contains names in Latin, Russian, English, German, and French. The second is A Complete Guide to Scientific Names of Reptiles and Amphibians of the World, by Norman Frank and Erica Ramus (1995); for those species for which no commonly accepted common name exists, the name proposed in this book has been used in the volume on Reptiles.
Grzimek,s provides the following standard information on lineage in the Taxonomy rubric of each Species account: [First described as] Atractaspis bibroni [by] A. Smith, [in] 1849, [based on a specimen from] eastern districts of the Cape Colony, South Africa. The person's name and date refer to earliest identification of a species, although the species name may have changed since first identification. However, the entity of reptile is the same.
Readers should note that within chapters, species accounts are organized alphabetically by subfamily name and then alphabetically by scientific name.
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