Nobody knows exactly how many snake species live in the biodiversity hotspots of Western and Central Africa. While field guides abound that make mammals, birds, and even insects identifiable for residents, travelers, and scientists, half a continent's herpetological richness has remained shrouded in mystery. In a region where nearly 30,000 people die from snake bites every year, even dire medical necessity has been an insufficient inducement for researchers to take on the daunting task of assembling an authoritative list of extant species, let alone a full descriptive record to aid in identification, the essential first step to administering an effective antivenin. The reptiles of Central Africa, particularly, are the most poorly studied in the world, despite their crucial role in the survival of threatened ecosystems.
With Snakes of Central and Western Africa, Jean-Philippe Chippaux and Kate Jackson have created a game changer. The result of years of field research and systematic study in the world's leading museums, this book compiles for the first time a comprehensive guide to the region's snakes. Covering a vast swath of the continent, ranging from Mauritania in the northwest to Rwanda in the east and Angola in the south, Chippaux and Jackson provide detailed accounts for the more than 200 species of snakes that inhabit the region.
The first part of the book is devoted to the taxonomic characters used for identifying snakes. The authors deal with the evolution and biogeography of African snakes as well as epidemiological and clinical aspects of snakebite. The remaining chapters are organized phylogenetically, following the latest consensus on evolutionary patterns of major snake lineages in sub-Saharan Africa. Species identification is facilitated by simple and accessible dichotomous keys and detailed descriptions of morphological characteristics, complemented by numerous drawings, photos, and distribution maps. Invaluable information on taxonomy and natural history is also included. The book concludes with a comprehensive index and a list of nearly 600 references. Snakes of Central and Western Africa illuminates a previously little-known part of the natural world, provides vital information that could save many lives, and will make an excellent addition to any herpetology library.
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