M. Brock Fenton
Volume 21 Number 4
Brock Fenton's Bats is an excellent, high-quality publication that accurately summarizes most of the known information on bats. Written in an easy-to-read style, the book is in large format and is generously illustrated throughout with colour photos and graphic illustrations. If the book does have a limitation, it might be its cost.
Fenton (York University) is an internationally recognized scientific authority on bats and well qualified to write such a book. It is to his credit that besides producing numerous scientific papers on bats, he can set aside the "dry" academic writing style and adopt a lighter writing style for this book. And, every so often, Fenton adds an anecdotal touch within the material, thus conveying both his personal experience and enthusiasm for the topic.
The material is organized into thirteen chapters with the first ten dealing mainly with the biology of bats. The last three chapters deal with the human-bat interaction topics, i.e., public health, conservation, and bats in human history. According to Fenton, it would appear that the human phobia of bats is mainly a Western cultural phenomenon. He points out the significance and appearance of bat images in some of the older world cultures. Although North Americans associate bats with the evil side of darkness, Eastern cultures recognize bats as symbols of fertility, good luck and grace.
"In the United States and Canada, between 1955 and 1985 eight people are known to have died from rabies caught from bats. Many more die every year from bee stings and dog bites.... The statistics indicate that public health risks do not justify bat phobias."
Biological topics covered in Bats include feeding, echolocation, roosting, social behaviour, migration/orientation, and population ecology. Fenton also presents a sampling of different kinds of bats from throughout the world to show the wide variation in bat species biology.
A single chapter deals with Vampire Bats, that very small group of bats that contains a few blood-feeding members. It would appear that a lot of the misinformation regarding bats has evolved from the imagined terror of Vampire Bats.
Bats is an excellent source of information and would be a valuable addition to any school library. Besides presenting detailed and accurate information about bats, it recognizes the public concerns about bats and deals with them. Because of the detail in the book's content, the book will be most suited to senior readers.
Peter Croskery is a biologist, freelance writer and instructor specializing in environmental issues in Grimsby, Ontario.
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