The overall structure of this reference work is based on the classification of animals into naturally related groups, a discipline known as taxonomy—the science through which various organisms are discovered, identified, described, named, classified, and catalogued. Starting with the simplest life forms, the protostomes, in Vol. 1, the series progresses through the more complex animal classes, culminating with the mammals in Vols. 12-16. Volume 17 is a stand-alone cumulative index.
Organization of chapters within each volume reinforces the taxonomic hierarchy. Opening chapters introduce the class of animal, followed by chapters dedicated to order and family. Species accounts appear at the end of family chapters. To help the reader grasp the scientific arrangement, each type of chapter has a distinctive color and symbol:
▲= Family Chapter (yellow background)
• = Order Chapter (blue background)
M= Monotypic Order Chapter (green background)
As chapters narrow in focus, they become more tightly formatted. General chapters have a loose structure, reminiscent of the first edition. While not strictly formatted, order chapters are carefully structured to cover basic information about member families. Monotypic orders, comprised of a single family, utilize family chapter organization. Family chapters are most tightly structured, following a prescribed format of standard rubrics that make information easy to find and understand. Family chapters typically include:
Thumbnail introduction Common name Scientific name Class Order Suborder Family
Thumbnail description Size
Number of genera, species Habitat
Conservation status Main essay
Evolution and systematics
Feeding ecology and diet Reproductive biology Conservation status Significance to humans Species accounts Common name Scientific name Subfamily Taxonomy
Other common names
Feeding ecology and diet Reproductive biology
Conservation status Significance to humans Resources Books Periodicals Organizations Other
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