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Papers on the Higher Classification of Frogs

Identification KeyJournal / Magazine

Series: Facsimile Reprints in Herpetology

By: Edward D Cope (Author)

28 pages, tables

Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles

Paperback | Dec 1979 | #69295 | ISBN: 0916984087
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £9.50 $12/€11 approx

About this book

Contains reprints of two of Cope's hallmark papers, On the Limits and Relations of the Raniformes (Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, XVI(4): 181-183, 1864) and Sketch of the Primary Groups of Batrachia Salientia (Natural History Review, V(XVII): 97-120, 1865).

From the editor's note:
"Cope’s article on the classification of frogs, published in the January 1865 issue of Natural History Review, is a landmark paper in herpetology. In addition to the description of several new genera and families of frogs, including the extinct Palaeobatrachidae and the poison-arrow frogs (Dendrobatidae), Cope recognized the taxonomic importance of the shoulder girdle and divided frogs into major groups according to the characteristics of their pectoral arches. With some modifications, Boulenger adopted Cope’s arrangement in his Catalogue of the Batrachia Salientia . . . (1882) and ever since herpetologists have utilized these characteristics, although the categories “arciferal” and “firmisternal” have been redefined (see Griffiths, 1963, also for a discussion of the history of frog classification). Actually, the idea was first proposed by Cope a few months earlier in a short paper in Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences which, although dated “Aug. 1864,” was issued later in the fall but before December 1864, according to the Index to the Journal and Proceedings of the Academy: 1817-1910 (1913). Thus, this earlier note is also reprinted here, to provide a more complete understanding of Cope’s views at the time.

It may seem peculiar that so useful a characteristic as the pectoral girdle could have been overlooked by other workers, but prior to Cope’s studies classifications developed by herpetologists were largely based on external structures. It was standard practice at many museums not to permit dissections at all. For example, the rules of the British Museum prohibited the staff from dissecting animals under their charge, “lest they be rendered useless for subsequent observers” (Gray, 1839), and there were some zoologists then who believed that it was not proper to use criteria in taxonomy that required the sacrifice of specimens. But Cope was anything but tradition bound and during his visits to the major European museums in 1863-1864, during which time he made many of the observations reported in these papers, he must have greatly dismayed his hosts by the liberal use of his penknife (Osborn, 1931)."

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