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The Velvet Claw: A Natural History of the Carnivores Hardcover – June, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Their teeth--specifically, a set of scissor-like back teeth, the carnassials--define the carnivores, all descended from one common ancestor. Today there are 236 species in eight families: cat, dog, bear, weasel, civet, raccoon, hyena and mongoose. Macdonald ( The Encyclopedia of Mammals ) escorts us through 60 million years of evolution to show how feeding habits and ecological circumstances have shaped the social behavior and adaptation of these animals. He treats each family separately, from the fossil records to the present, complete with family tree. The material is smoothly written and holds one's interest. A final chapter notes the vulnerability of the top predators due to shrinking habitat, loss of genetic variability and bad luck (fires, earthquakes). Macdonald believes that 17% of the carnivores are at risk of extinction.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The Velvet Claw was written to accompany Macdonald's BBC television documentary by the same name. Containing stunning, full-color frames from the seven-part series, the book is a comprehensive yet readable history of the carnivores today and of those that roamed the earth before the advent of humans. Today's carnivores all descend along the cat and dog (or viverravine and vulpavine) branches of the carnivore family tree. So, much of the book is devoted to the evolution and modern social and diet practices of the two branches, from the tiger and lion to the two-pound black-footed cat, and from the gray wolf, coyote, and hyena to bears. Why the Giant Panda is a carnivore is clearly explained in the opening discussion of what classifies an animal as a carnivore--possession of scissorlike back teeth that slice through flesh. The interesting information on the diets and lifestyles of carnivores and their ancestors will be of great use in any library with a comprehensive animal collection. Caroline Paulison
Top customer reviews
Head of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, MacDonald begins with an overview of the carnivore's evolutionary rise then devotes a chapter to each of the eight families: civets and genets, cats, dogs, hyaenas, bears, raccoons and coatis, weasels and skunks, and mongooses.
He traces the rise and fall of species (often by their teeth) and explores the drama of survival. When possible, MacDonald refers to anecdotal research from studies worldwide to illuminate behavior patterns, feeding and mating habits. His narrative style is engaging and informative and enhanced by the moments of high action captured in the color illustrations and photographs.
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