Princeton Field Guides is not the first to bring to market a comprehensive guide (reference guide) about all currently recognized 245 species of true carnivores on the planet. However, their guide is the only accessible reference guide of its size with color illustrations and while it is not a “pocket field guide,” it is of an appropriate size (9.25” x 6.0” x 0.6”) that it can be considered easily portable enough to carry while on safari or in the field. Authors Luke Hunter and Priscilla Barrett have jam-packed the guide with concise information on true carnivores (exclusive to Order Carnivora) from the tropical forests of Borneo to the frigid Arctic Circle and provided an incredible and cost-effective resource.
Carnivores of the World has color plate illustrations rather than photographs which are carefully crafted to present accurate depictions of common and elusive carnivores. The sense of life and motion imparted on these animals brings a lot more substance to the images than a photograph of an animal at rest, so we find these color plate illustrations to be of invaluable use to amateur and intermediate naturalists learning all the shapes, sizes, and coat patterns of the world’s mammals. A “footprint glossary” provides sketches and sizes of tracks for over 115 species which is essential for anyone in the field, naturalist or academic alike. The two-page glossary of terms is also a welcome addition for laypeople and entry-level biologists. These two inclusions, as well as a the skull illustrations and color plate illustrations make Carnivores of the World a must-buy for budding and veteran naturalists interested in the latest information.
Academics and wildlife book collectors will note that Princeton Field Guides’ Carnivores of the World provides similar depth and comprehensive information as Walker’s Carnivores of the World, the latter containing about 30 more pages dedicated to species information. The only shortcomings are black-and-white photos, a lack of skull and track illustrations, and rapidly becoming out of date with respect to taxonomic information.
Walker’s Carnivores of the World, published in 2005, covered the then-established 271 species of the Order Carnivora. It is geared towards students and academics seeking dense summaries of the science of adaptations, habitat use and home ranges, and behavior. It also lacks color depictions, which leaves Princeton’s solution to the naturalists’ quest for knowledge as the only choice for the field.
As far as a book to take on your travels, Princeton Field Guides’ Carnivores of the World‘s only failing is of course that it only covers carnivores! Naturalists looking for something portable but comprehensive enough for a variety of species will benefit by picking up a field guide, either by Princeton Field Guides or another series, to supplement their thirst for knowledge of herbivores or another specific class of wildlife (snakes, insects, birds). Carrying 2 or 3 field guide-sized books shouldn’t be a problem for the serious naturalist, but could be a problem for ultra-light adventurers, in which case the region-specific field guide should always be chosen as the book to carry. The others can be left at base camp (or your home desk).
As previously mentioned Walker’s Carnivores of the World by Ronald M. Nowak provides a deeper understanding of carnivores as an Order, and we classify it as a light reference book because it is geared towards the technical and comes complete with citations and a lengthy introduction to carnivore behavior, habitat, and other characteristics which takes up nearly the first 60 pages. Its lack of color photos or illustrations also makes it less accessible to those unfamiliar with identifying a majority of the species. However we’re sure that if Walker’s Carnivores of the World is ever revised that it will be a clean contender for best light reference guide on carnivores.
A Field Guide to Carnivores of the World, incidentally also written by Luke Hunter and Priscilla Barrett, was published in 2011 in hardcover and surveys the then-established 250 extant carnivore species. Slightly out of date, we expect that the authors’ latest work provided by Princeton Field Guide is both the better choice and will be easier to find from a book retailer.