Much of this website is taken up with guides to different species, mostly of reptiles and amphibians but some of other animals. You will find it useful to read these notes before looking at any of these guides.
The guides are usually grouped by genus, that is to say, each page deals with all the species commonly considered to be part of the genus. Thus the page on Gekko (the True or Calling Geckos) deals with all the Gekko species, such as Gekko gecko (the Tokay Gecko), Gekko vittatus (the White-Striped or Palm Gecko), etc. A genus may include obscure or relatively unknown species as well as the well-known ones: in the above example, the Gekko page deals with Gekko hokkuensis and other species hardly if ever seen in the pet trade as well as Gekko gecko, the well-known Tokay Gecko.
Some groups of animals are so small in terms of the numbers of species that we have included the whole family on one page. Thus the page on bears, for example, covers the genus Ursus (which includes most bears) as well as the genus Ailuropoda (pandas) and Tremarctos (spectacled bears), since all three genera only make up a total of eight species. On the other hand some individual genera of animals are so large (such as the Anolis, or anoles) that they may have to be broken up into two or more pages, dealing with the species in alphabetical order.
The pages are broken down into a more or less standard format to give some sort of standardisation.
The first few paragraphs usually give some information on the genus as a whole, such as its characteristic features, its distribution, its degree of rarity or commonness, how it is impacted by human influence, etc.
Usually the first table is a quick index that simply lists the species. By clicking on a particular species you can usually go straight to its entry in the next table, which deals with the individual species. This table varies but usually has the following columns:
This is the scientific name, usually Latin or Greek, that is universally accepted by the scientific community around the world.
The common name refers to the non-scientific, or popular name, of the species, eg "Tokay Gecko" for Gekko gekko, or "Polar bear" for Ursus maritimus. The common name is usually the English one, but where possible we have included French, German or Spanish equivalents, especially if the species occurs primarily in an area where one of those languages is spoken.
This gives the area where the species is usually found in the wild, including any areas where animals have been brought by human activity and subsequently escaped to form viable colonies. Thus the range for the Tokay Gecko includes Florida, since the species is now feral in that area. The location usually gives a list of countries, with more specific information being given in the Notes. For further explanations of some of the terms used, see Geographical Listing.
This lists the size of the animal. If that should sound rather obvious, it should be noted that animals are measured in different ways. We have adopted the following standard:
This gives a brief description of the animal, usually including some description of its distinguishing marks, such as the arrangement of its scales (in reptiles especially) and its colour and patterning. Where possible we have also added some information on its natural habitat, its behaviour and its method of reproduction. For appropriate species this will hopefully help keepers to provide the best environment for the animal. Where a species is completely inappropriate for captivity we have usually added a note to that effect. It is important to note that we are not against the keeping of animals in captivity provided that their needs are properly met.
This section lists those books, papers and/or magazines that were consulted in the preparation of the guide for the particular genus/genera. Where possible we have tried to consult a multitude of sources, firstly, because sometimes single sources may complement one another, and secondly, because opinions can vary. We would also wish to avoid the charge of plagiarism!
This lists sites that also deal with some aspect of the genus, whether the life of the animals in the wild or experiences of keeping them in captivity. It is important to note that we do not necessarily endorse non-related material on those sites, nor can we vouch for the complete accuracy of external websites.
A word is in order here about the EMBL reptile database. We acknowledge our debt to this site, which contains up-to-date listings for all the reptile genera, including some if not all of the prehistoric ones. We have mainly used them to get an accurate list of the species and their distribution, and to find out the literature sources on the individual species.
The main point of these guides is twofold: firstly, to give information on the various species themselves and show the diversity of cold-blooded terrestrial vertebrates in particular, and secondly, to give would-be keepers of those species which are suitable for captivity some pointers as to how they live in the wild, which usually helps to determine their captive husbandry. However, in our opinion there is also no substitute for a book or, better, books. Books can be read at any time: they do not depend upon a connection to the Internet: and the better ones usually go into much helpful detail. This is another reason why we have put a Bibliography at the bottom of the guides.
Finally, any feedback on the information contained in these guides is welcome. If we have made a mistake anywhere, please point it out to us!
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