Get to Know San Diego’s Fauna with the New ‘Mammal Atlas’

Source: Times of San Diego, December 4, 2017

The diversity of mammals in San Diego County is greater than any other county in the United States, yet there has been no synthesis of their identification, distribution, natural history, or the conservation challenges they face—until now.

The new San Diego County Mammal Atlas, which hits shelves later this month, will serve as the definitive guide to the mammals of San Diego County. More than a decade in the making, the 432-page, full-color book covers the biology of all 91 terrestrial species and 31 inshore marine visitors known to have occurred here during recorded history (since 1769). Species covered in the book range from the desert bighorn sheep to the abundant California ground squirrel seen in neighborhoods across the county to the immense blue whale found along our shorelines.

The San Diego Natural History Museum will host a Nat Talk and book signing on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m., which serves as the official release date of the San Diego County Mammal Atlas. The book will be available for $49.95 at the Museum store and online, and proceeds will support the Museum’s Department of Birds and Mammals.

More than 40 biologists have contributed to this book, making it a work of the entire mammalogical community. Bringing it together as editors and authors are Scott Tremor, Drew Stokes, Howard Thomas, and Philip Unitt of the San Diego Natural History Museum, Susan Chivers of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Wayne Spencer of the Conservation Biology Institute, and Jay Diffendorfer of the U.S. Geological Survey. Other major partners include the San Diego Zoo and the U.S. Forest Service.

Although the book is focused geographically on San Diego County, it will be of interest to scientists, conservationists, and educators throughout the United States and Mexico. Readers will likely include students (high school and university), land managers, working biologists, amateur naturalists, and anyone with an interest in San Diego’s wildlife.

“San Diego County is a hotspot of biological diversity, species endangerment, and conservation planning,” said Scott Tremor, mammalogist at the San Diego Natural History Museum and lead author and organizer of the book. “But mammals have been somewhat underrepresented in San Diego’s innovative conservation plans, partly because of spotty information on the distribution, ecology, and conservation status of our local mammal species. The San Diego County Mammal Atlas is a highly collaborative effort to help fill these data gaps.”

Accounts of each species include identification, distribution, habitats, and aspects of natural history such as diet, reproduction, space use, activity patterns, predators, and behavior. They address the conservation issues each species faces in the county, including urbanization, habitat fragmentation, and the increased prevalence of wildfire. Techniques for detecting or surveying the species in the field are discussed, and key topics for future research are highlighted. A list of fossil mammals from San Diego County helps put the current mammal fauna in its evolutionary context.

Detailed skull drawings and photographs of most species help readers with identification. Maps depict localities of Museum specimens and the observations of biologists. Gaps in current knowledge are presented as challenges to inspire students and researchers to pursue in future studies.

San Diego County Mammal Atlas is complementary to the San Diego County Bird Atlas (Unitt 2004), the Museum’s online San Diego County Plant Atlas, and the online Amphibian and Reptile Atlas of Peninsular California. Thanks to these scholarly works, San Diego County is now biologically one of the best-documented regions in the world.