Handbook of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. By Mark Carwardine. Published by Bloomsbury, 2020. 528pp.
The author is the world’s expert on whales, dolphins and porpoises, having already written over 50 wildlife and conservation books. He is also a familiar voice on BBC Radio 4’s Nature programme and has been seen working with Stephen Fry on ‘Last Chance to See’ series. This tome is by far the best, and comprehensive handbook on the group. It is too heavy to go in a field coat, but it will be essential back in the ships’ mess, field laboratory or university library for identification. Mammalogist Carwardine has acknowledged the input of over 70 scientists who have assisted with the field observations to make the book such a colossus of information. Each of the 90 species of cetacean has been meticulously described. Over 1,000 illustrations were commissioned from artists: Martin Camm, Rebecca Robinson and Toni Llobet and the text is also illustrated with colour photographs throughout. The detail for each species is superlative. I could find nothing omitted – annotated diagrams describing all the external features of each sex, colour variants, identification from photos, population differences, similar species, distribution, maps, teeth, behaviour, predators, populations, conservation and vocalisations. This is just a fascinating book for all naturalists, even if you are not a whale enthusiast, it is a gazetteer of cetaceans; I only wish I had read up from this book about the pink river dolphins before I met them in the Amazon. Then I would have been much wiser. John Feltwell.