This field guide is a definitive yet handy guide that will surely be a classic of its type. It covers all the living species of native mammals from Mexico to Panama (including aquatic species such as whales and otters). For each species there is a careful description of its physical appearance along with notes on habitats, ranges (with maps) and behaviour, as well as other useful comments such as the best place to see a particular species, what the ground tracks look like and the status of threatened species. It is an absolute mine of fascinating information, much of it newly gathered or previously available only in obscure academic sources. There are excellent introductory sections on the main mammal groups, and good indexes and bibliographies -- in short , everything one needs to find and enjoy looking at mammals. But the most unique and useful feature (as well as the greatest delight -- and why this is a true classic), are the illustrations - hundreds of beautifully drawn colour plates painted from life (often in the most demanding of circumstances), that will allow you to settle important questions like "Is that a Woolly False Vampire Bat or a Great False Vampire Bat that just bit you" without flaming your travelling companions. (The book is especially strong on Bats.) Flying squirrels, monkeys, oppossums, sloths, deer mice, armadillos dolphins and skunks, they are all here. I would highly recommend this book both for amateurs and professionals (whether they are going to central america or not!). Every academic library should have a copy of it.
The care taken over detail throughout make the book both scientifically valuable and highly readable. It is a true labour of love - and just look at this quote from the author's preface! "Some species I painted while sitting in a truck, using the steering wheel as an easel, and some in a tent with a hadlamp at night, but most were done outside during the day, sitting on the ground or on a log. The white background of the plates suffered from a continuous onslaught of dust, sweat, and grime, and other indefinable debris. Carrying the plates throughout Central America involved some harrowing experiences, one of which was a short flight to Tortuguero in Costa Rica. The pilot had at length persuaded me to put my portfolio in the front baggage hold in the nose of the plane, and after we took off he realized that the door to this hold had come open. While the other four passengers agonized over the possibility of the plane going down if the luggage became tangled in the propellors, I was trying to follow our coordinates so I could search for my plates if they fell to the swampy ground below. Fortunately, we landed at a small airfield, corrected the problem, and lost nothing but peace of mind."