Banner Image

Evolution and Biogeography of  Australasian Vertebrates


ABOUT THE BOOKS (scroll down for reviews)

Evolution and Biogeography of Australasian Vertebrates - Available in Hardback (HB) and Paperback (PB).

ISBN: 0 9757790 1 X (HB) and 0 9757790 0 1 (PB)

"A ground-breaking volume of international significance.
An overview of Australasian vertebrates in the extinction crisis!"

Click on a link below to learn more:

- Download our flyer as a PDF.

Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

For information and availability of 'Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums' (previously published title)

Click here.




2007 Whitley Award

Auscipub is proud to announce (to previous and potential customers) that this beautiful volume has received a prestigious Award.  It has received a 'Whitley Commendation for best Reference Text'.

These awards are presented each year by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, for outstanding publications on the faunas of Australasia.

At the Awards Ceremony (14th September), at the Australian Museum in Sydney, the regional significance and international interest of this reference were emphasized.  The volume was described as a synthesis of past and current climate changes with an understanding of previous and current vertebrate biodiversity of the region, for more effective conservation and management in future. For further information see:

* *** *


Rivas (ANGFA NSW Newsletter) – June 2007 Issue

“First Steps, Neoteny, Ventral Vaginas and Baby Brains” is the title of one of the many sections of Chapter 34 (“Humans Among Primates”) of this magnificent work.

And there is plenty of up-to-date information to be found. Like snakes no longer being considered alongside the lizards but within them, right next to monitors and Gila Monsters. Like sharks possibly being nested within bony fishes instead of being their sister group. Like at last someone clearly explaining the differences between the various genetic techniques used for mapping evolutionary relationships, as well as describing the morphological methods...

Conservation, environmental issues and maintaining biodiversity in the face of climate change and other challenges, these are recurring themes throughout the book. 

The individual authors organised their chapters in whichever way they thought best...the Vertebrate book’s chapters are peppered with lively quirks, gems and surprises, admittedly within a sea of facts and data.

* *** *

Reviews in Australian Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1 (June 2007)

Each of the 38 chapters of Evolution and Biogeography of Australasian Vertebrates is written by a specialist or specialists, and provides a comprehensive review of its topic.

The book is well illustrated, with clear line diagrams and/or black and white photographs within each chapter, and colour plates...that add interest but are only occasionally necessary to the argument. 

The chapters vary in their degree of specialisation, those in the first and last sections being concerned with overarching themes.  The bulk of the book includes chapters on specific groups, including two on single species, the Dingo and Man...

An unexpected but valuable and thought-provoking feature is argument concerning the way in which knowledge of biogeography and systematics can inform conservation planning in an age of accelerated extinction of taxa...

 The endpapers contain valuable synthetic tables, and are extremely useful to keep track of geological time and significant events in the evolution of life (front), and key themes in Australian vertebrate biogeography (back).

The list of references is useful.  Internal cross references also led me to material stimulating thought, including to chapters I would not initially have thought to read for my purposes.

An obvious effort has been made to reach a wide audience and the chapters are a pleasure to read...

* *** *

Australian  Zoologist, Vol. 34, pp. 231 - 232 (December 2007)

This monumental book is a second edition of a volume of the same name edited by Archer and Clayton in 1984….  The section termed Background comprises systematics, history of environmental change in Australia, the onset of aridity, zoogeography of New Guinea, a discussion of Wallace’s Line and the tectonic history of New Zealand….  These chapters provide useful information for the rest of the book….  Chapter 6 gives an excellent account of the chronology of extinction as a result of human predation and induced environmental destruction in New Zealand.  In……these chapters the changes in the faunas are related to the interaction of biological characteristics of the animals with the ecological factors prevailing at various times.

The rest of the book is organized taxonomically….. There is an excellent analysis of a large sample of fish from a Devonian locality at Canowindra, New South Wales.  The taphonomy and an analysis of the age structure of the antiarch Bothriolepis are interesting aspects of this chapter….  The discussion of the decline of frogs in Australia is timely in view of the environmental changes taking place today…  The known fossil record of the snakes in Australia is very poor but very good use is made of it in conjunction with phylogenetic and molecular clock data.  There is a good overview of the fossil birds with maps and tables of occurrences with references.   

A major portion of the book is devoted to the mammals….  An extensive chapter on the radiation of the Australian marsupials (except for the kangaroos) is well done, with some of the informal writing that was characteristic of the first edition.  There is a fairly comprehensive treatment of the fossil record of all the taxa with diagrams of the known record and cladograms showing phylogenetic relationships…  The introduction to the chapter on the kangaroos is an informative and amusing account of the early encounters of Europeans with members of this group….

A short chapter on the dingo describes its origin, fossil record, ecological role and interactions with Aboriginals.  The present hybridization with feral dogs is postulated to ultimately lead to the disappearance of pure dingo stock….  The Australian and New Zealand record of whales is summarized in a very useful chart and a detailed map shows the fossil localities.  There are very good figures of …… whale skeletal elements.

The origin and evolution of the primates is summarized ….  It is an extensive review with good illustrations and phylogenetic diagrams.  The Australian record of Homo sapiens is discussed in terms of the date and mode of entry into Australia and New Guinea as well as the morphological variation seen in the fossil samples. 

Most of the chapters concerning the origin and phylogeny of the various taxonomic groups cast the discussion in the framework of the relation of Australia to the other continents at various times.  The modern distributions of taxa are interpreted in light of these changes in the past.  Even those groups with poor fossil records in Australia,….., have their origins fairly well “explained” by the use of phylogenetic and biogeographic analyses….  The relationship of Australia to Gondwanaland is stressed.  Another theme that runs through the book is the Cainozoic desertification of Australia,….. it has been a major factor in the evolution and biogeography of the entire fauna.

In addition to a number of taxonomic keys, the book contains useful charts and maps and geologic time tables.  The Cainozoic stages used in Australia and New Zealand are given that will be useful to readers not familiar with them.  The reference lists for each chapter are up to date and there is a good index.  This book, like its predecessor, will be useful to a wide variety of readers.

* *** *

Austral Ecology, Vol. 33, pp. 117 – 118 (February 2008)

There has never been a greater need for science to elucidate the reasons behind global patterns of biodiversity. If we are to successfully tackle the many contemporary challenges to the conservation of species, such as habitat loss and climate change, we first need a sound understanding of the past, and of the nexus between evolutionary processes and biogeography. This will allow for more informed predictions of how species and habitats may be affected in the future, and therefore where management should be focussed. This text… provides a starting point for the region.

The Australasian region is characterised primarily by the distinctiveness… of its taxa. The editors of this book should be highly commended for taking on the mammoth task of attempting to place this unique fauna within an evolutionary and biogeographical context. This book also serves to highlight the many technological and methodological advances that have occurred since ….1984.

The 38 chapters follow a logical sequence, written by authorities on each subject area. The book starts broadly, with six “background” chapters. Mike Lee’s opening chapter on the systematics of the Australasian vertebrate fauna provides an excellent summary of the basic concepts and terms that are used throughout the rest of the book.  The second chapter details past environments; the focus then shifts to the evolutionary consequences of aridity in Australia (chapter 3) and the zoogeography of Papua New Guinea (chapter 4). In chapter 5, the discovery of Wallace’s Line and the events that contributed to the formation of this significant barrier are discussed. Lastly, chapter 6 deals with the evolution of the New Zealand vertebrates.  These initial background chapters provided a strong foundation from which to explore the remaining chapters, which narrow their focus to review the evolution and biogeography of each major vertebrate group from primitive fishes to more recent mammals.

The last three chapters address technological progress related to the fields of evolution and biogeography, focussing on advancements in molecular systematics, geographic information systems (GIS) and the remote collection of data on Australasian pinnipeds. All three of these chapters are enlightening… The endpapers which summarise major evolutionary events and biogeographical processes are a useful addition.

In general, the figures are well presented and complement the text in explaining complex ideas, and there are some wonderful illustrations throughout. With a text of this size, it is to be expected that the standard of writing varies considerably, but overall the book is presented in a way that is informative, accessible and often entertaining. At less than $200, this book is very well priced, and there is no question that it constitutes a very useful reference volume for all ecologists, evolutionary biologists and biogeographers.

* *** *

The Palaeontology Newsletter, No. 68, pp. 117 – 120 (August 2008)

This new volume is substantial, comprising 38 separately authored chapters contributed by researchers from a diverse range of fields including palaeontology, zoology, botany, ecology, systematics, genetics and environmental science. The content of EBAV has been extensively revamped to incorporate the numerous technical and methodological advances that have occurred since its 1984 predecessor, and provide a more detailed synopsis of modern Australasian biodiversity and ecosystems. True to the original format, EBAV retains an informal writing style, which is both consistent and effective……

EBAV is divided into seven sections: a preamble (including relevant maps) and ‘Background’, the latter constituting a prologue of systematics, the geological record, palaeoenvironments, and the development of modern Australasian faunas; a series of five taxonomic headings that examine aspects of the major vertebrate groups…… and finally ‘Accelerated Change – the Regional Future’, a useful epilogue describing current analytical techniques for assessing biodiversity, faunal management and conservation practice. Each of these sections is well illustrated…

I enjoyed reading the section on amphibians. The opening Chapter 11 concentrates on Australia’s enigmatic early tetrapods and the diverse radiation of temnospondyls in the southern high latitudes of Gondwana during the late Palaeozoic and Mesozoic. Chapter 13 is also particularly informative, outlining current research on the alarming decline of frogs in the Australasian region. The text of this penultimate chapter is especially well organised, explaining what species are in decline and where, the possible causes, and potential strategies for future conservation/management. It therefore makes a valuable reference work for anyone seeking to understand vertebrate extinction in a modern context.

The last section of EBAV is certainly one of the best. It discusses modern techniques for determining species biodiversity and how this knowledge can be applied to future conservation. Such information is timely, especially given the catastrophic rates of extinction now affecting the Australasian vertebrate biota. The concluding chapters are also a boon to the book’s utility, providing readers with an entry-level understanding of the latest analytical methodologies available to evolutionary/biogeographical research in palaeontology, zoology and ecology.

So,………would I recommend this book? Yes:…EBAV provides a relatively recent large-scale overview of the vertebrate record in Australasia. More importantly it is an accessible reference for students and non-specialist readers interested in the palaeontology and modern biogeography of Australasia’s unique vertebrate fauna. Moreover, the numerous maps and tables are useful for an international audience otherwise unfamiliar with Australasian geography and faunal distributions. Finally,……EBAV is affordable, and makes an economical prospective addition to the libraries of professional researchers and interested laymen alike.

* *** *