Book Review: Guía de Reptiles de España, written by A. Salvador and J.M. Pleguezuelos

In: Amphibia-Reptilia
Xavier Santos Santiró CIBIO/InBIO, University of Porto

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A.Salvador , J.M.Pleguezuelos (2013): Guía de Reptiles de España. Canseco Editores, Toledo, Spain. 462 pp., hardback. ISBN 978 8 493 61916 9.

The Iberian Peninsula is one of the best geographic examples through Europe to illustrate speciation processes of amphibians and reptiles due to the occurrence of environmental refugia during the Messinian Salinity Crisis and Pleistocene climatic fluctuations. For this reason, Iberia is one of the richest European areas in terms of species richness and rate of endemism. The number of species is still increasing due to continuous improvement of molecular techniques, the use of an increasing number of markers, and a more complete sampling.

As a consequence of this, the number of herpetological guides dealing with an updated taxonomy and distribution of Amphibians and Reptiles in Spain is rather high, and new books continue appearing, suggesting that “the market” is not saturated. For this reason, an updated edition of the “Guía de Reptiles de España” (Canseco Editores) is not surprising. In fact, this book, authored by Alfredo Salvador and Juan M. Pleguezuelos, is not just a guide, but a complete summary of the biology and ecology of Spanish reptiles, with updates of the most recent advances and contributions made by the dynamic Spanish community of herpetologists.

The book has an easy to handle format in hardback, 462 pages, and original black and white drawings (2-4 according to species) and color photos (for juveniles and adults of both sexes) for the 71 native and introduced species in mainland Spain, plus the Balearic and Canary Archipelagos. The price, 35 euros, is cheap according to the quality of the edition. It includes a general introduction describing the content of the book and the main threats of reptiles, several particular taxonomic keys for each group in order to easily identify specimens, and individual texts for each reptile species. Each species text includes morphological description, distribution (with UTM 10 × 10 km2 map based on the most recent Asociación Herpetológica Española data set), variation (geographic, sexual, ontogenetic), and complete summary of the main life-history traits. Interestingly, the book also includes specific texts for the taxa that unfortunately are invading Canary and Balearic Archipelagos, as well as mainland Spain. To save editorial room, this edition only includes a brief list of books dealing with Spanish reptiles, and recommends readers interested in further lectures to consult references for each species into the web page

The first edition of this book was published in 2002, and the second one in 2013. Just 11 years have allowed the description of nine new species (Blanus mariae, Chalcides coeruleopunctatus, Iberolacerta cyreni, I. martinezricai, I. galani, I. aranica, I. aurelioi, Podarcis carbonelli, and P. vaucheri), plus a significant number of taxonomic and nomenclatural revisions.

In a scenario of continuous taxonomic shifts, it is almost impossible to have an updated version of the most recent changes, including the rearrangement of the previous published information. For example, in 2012 Zootaxa published a paper proposing that the lizard Psammodromus hispanicus should be split into three species. Salvador and Pleguezuelos’s book already cite this novelty proving their ability to include the most recent taxonomic changes. A similar case occurs with Blanus mariae. However, in other cases such as Podarcis hispanica, the authors do not consider the already recognized taxon Podarcis liolepis. Unfortunately, the distribution maps of the book do not illustrate these recent taxonomic changes. A dashed line showing the range limits would have helped readers to identify easily the distribution of the new taxa.

Both authors are outstanding herpetologists with a large trajectory in the study of the biology, ecology and conservation of Western Mediterranean reptiles. Alfredo Salvador, from the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC, Madrid) focuses his research on the study of lizards, whereas Juan M. Pleguezuelos, placed on the University of Granada mostly focuses on snakes. Thus, the collaboration of both authors covers almost all the spectrum of the Spanish reptile community. They are also particularly experts on the coordination of big herpetological projects, such as Atlas y Libro Rojo de los Anfibios y Reptiles de España (edited by J.M. Pleguezuelos et al. in 2002), Enciclopedia Virtual de los Vertebrados Ibéricos (coordinated by A. Salvador, online) and Fauna Ibérica, Reptiles (coordinated by A. Salvador, in press). This activity means that both authors have accumulated complete information of the current knowledge of the biology of Spanish reptiles, and this guarantees that the information posted in this new book is complete and accurate.

The conservation of Spanish reptiles is one of the hot issues that have attracted the recent interest of herpetologists, including the authors of this book. For this reason, I think that a more complete revision of the state of the art on this topic and description of the main threats (also including the effects of global warming) could have been useful for naturalists and conservationists. The text dealing with threats and conservation issues of Spanish reptiles (pages 10-12) is clearly insufficient. A couple of aspects that also would have made this book interesting for a wider audience are the language and the territorial context. English is the common language to disseminate science; for this reason, authors and editors should consider publishing books, like the present one, bilingual. About the territory, I think that Spain and Portugal conforms a biogeographic unit and nowadays it is impossible to understand the phylogeographic, ecological and conservation issues of Iberian reptiles separately for the Portuguese and the Spanish populations. Both authors of this book have strong and old contacts with Portuguese colleagues; for this reason I would like to see that the third edition of this book will include the complete distribution of reptiles throughout Iberia.

Just my last words to explain to whom this book is addressed. Although it summarizes huge high-quality information of the reptiles’ biology, the reading is amenable and easy to be understandable for a wide audience including herpetologists, conservationists and ecologists. The lack of very technical words and figures such as graphs or genetic trees, save space, an important issue for a handling edition as this, and also allows the book to be attractive for most naturalists interested in the rich Iberian reptile community.

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