Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Foreword: Encyclopedia Arctica 3: Zoology (Excluding Birds)
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Foreword

EA-Zoology
(M ax . J. Dunbar)

FOREWORD

Encyclopedia Arctica differs from ordinary encyclopedias in that it is
restricted in its subject matter to a special geographical area, and there–
fore caters to the needs of a more specialized body of readers. Furthermore,
in addition to presenting a wide range of observed facts about the northern
regions, it deals with many subjects that are still in a fairly elementary
stage of study. To give a good account of the present state of our knowledge
it is necessary to summarize the past research and to include the several
theoretical approaches or generalizations that have been made. It follows
that many of the articles need to be more discursive than normal for encyclo–
pedia contributions and that controversial matters should not be presented
from one side only. The Encyclopedia is, in fact, a collection of original
papers, many of them of the “review article” type, and special effort has been
made to encourage authors to make their lists of bibliographic references as
full as is reasonable, so that the further following of any subject, by the
reader, is facilitated.
The policy followed in approaching authors for articles, and in editing
the whole volume on terrestrial, marine, and freshwater zoology, zoology (excluding birds), has been to
define the desired subject matter in general terms only, and to allow the pros–
pective author full scope to develop it as he wished. Any attempt to give the

EA-Zoo. Dunbar: Foreword

articles in the present volume a common stamp, or to achieve uniformity in
their pattern and arrangement, has been avoided; the reader has in front of
him a series of individual papers, in which the points of view expressed are
the authors’, not the editors’. Since the authors are leading authorities in
their fields, this policy seemed the only proper one to follow. It has the
effect, moreover, of adding to the interest of the volume as a whole.
It also has the effect of making a certain amount of overlapping unavoid–
able. The preliminary patterning of the scheme of articles in the volume,
however, was so arranged, and the lengths of the articles so controlled,
within limits, that overlapping has been kept down to a minimum. A certain
degree of overlapping is possibly an advantage anyway, since it avoids over–
complicated cross-referencing. Thus it will be seen that a small amount of
the material discussed by Professor Wynne-Edwards in his paper on the Fresh–
water Vertebrates is also treated by Dr. V. D. Vladykov writing on Freshwater
Fisheries, and that there is a common area between the articles on Terrestrial
Vertebrates (Dr. A. L. Rand) and the three papers on fur bearers (Dr. Leonard
Butler, Dr. Magnus Degerbøl, and Dr. Sven Ekman). Also, the articles on single
species (wolverine, caribou, arctic char, etc.) contain information which is
included, in lesser detail, in articles on the appropriate large taxonomic
or ecological groups.
The fact that this is a collection of individual papers in which the
authors’ points of view are not obscured by editorial presumption, has resulted
in the presentation of very different standpoints on controversial matters. For
example, on the subject of the effects of predator control by man, a vexed one
at present, the reader will find (the precise places in which he will find it

EA-Zoo. Dunbar: Foreword

are left for him to discover) that diametrically opposed attitudes are repre–
sented within this one volume. Since such opposite points of view are the
essence of controversy, and one important stimulus to research, the presenta–
tion of all of them becomes the only way to keep close to the fact s ; to attempt
to offer a united front would be to give a false picture of the present state
of our knowledge.
There is variety also in the type of article included here, by which is
meant that there is a range between the strictly “scientific” to the almost
“popular.” Here again, no apology is made. To have insisted on uniformity
would have brought about a condition to which greater objections could be
raised than those to which, in the opinion of the writer, the present method
is open. In short, it seems that the preparation of an Encyclopedia Arctica in
zoology involves certain apparent problems which have here been solved largely
by ignoring them.
The zoological scheme chosen is ecological rather than taxonomic. The
birds, which, most probably because of their general appeal and because of the
comparative ease of observing them, have received much more study than any
other group, are treated in a separate volume, under the care of Dr. G. M. Sutton.
They are a large group in the North, and are described in greater detail than
most representatives of the land-bound and aquatic faunas. For the ornithological
volume, the arrangement is systematic, but for the rest it seemed more in keep–
ing with present trends in zoology to use a less strictly taxonomic classification.
It would in fact have been impossible to find authors to treat the whole of the
arctic and subarctic fauna on a strictly taxonomic basic.
There is now the troublesome matter of nomenclature. Zoologists, for some

EA-Zoo. Dunbar: Foreword

good reason, are strongly individual. Unlike botanists, they have never ac–
cepted the authority of international organizations or committees on nomencla–
ture, and very often do not bother to conform to regulations handed down by
them. The result is an apparent disorganization which probably does no harm
to zoology. Phoca hispida , the North American name, represents the same speices
as does Phoca foetida in Europe. For many European mammalogists, Rangifer
tarandus is the name applied to all caribou and reindeer; not so in North
America, where we have a considerable proliferation of specific and subspecific
names. There are differences in usage in the names and systematic status of
the far seals of the North Pacific; also of the wolves of the whole n N orthern
h H emisphere. The most difficult case of all is that of the arctic char, which
by some zoologists is considered to exist as a single species, Salvelinus
alpinus , with slight geographic and considerable seasonal variations; others
maintain that several different species are found, and the total number of
specific names given to the arctic char of various parts of the North lies
between twenty and thirty. Here again, the existing lack of unanimity mirrors
a truth — that systematics are a matter of opinion. There is no agreement
upon the constitution of a species, and there are different views on the evo–
lutionary relationships within many groups of animals. Since nomenclature is
intended to reflect evolutionary history, disagreement [: ] in the one is bound
to be mirrored in disagreement in the other.
In the editing of this volume of the Encyclopedia , nomenclature has been
made as consistent as possible, and notes of synonymity have been inserted where
they are considered necessary. But the right of European zoologists to use
foetida instead of hispida has been respected, and authors who prefer to consider

EA-Zoo. Dunbar: Foreword

the arctic char or its equivalent as several species rather than one, have done
so here.
The names of authorities for specific names have been omitted; for the pur–
pose of the Encyclopedia they are not necessary, and they would serve only to
confuse the lay reader. Where vernacular names of animals are used, the
scientific names have been used once only in each article, the first time each
animal is mentioned in the text.
The volume [: ] as a whole shows up our present knowledge of the zoology of
the North as being still in the early stages of development, which is correct.
There has been difficulty in obtaining recent information on the state of
zoological research in the northern parts of the U.S.S.R., so that the Encyclo–
pedia may give a false impression of that part of the subject; [: ] but for North
America and Greenland, and Spitsbergen, all the latest material is available.
It will become clear to the reader that the zoology of Greenland has had much
more effort spent upon it than has been expended in the past, at least up to
recent years, in North America, a point which is to the credit of Denmark.
The present incomplete state of zoological knowledge in arctic and subarctic
North America is no doubt due to the attitude which asks: “What is the use of
all this?” This so-called “hard-headed” point of view maintains that money
spent on scientific research must bring in returns, with profit, in the fairly
immediate future, and that the collecting, identifying, and mapping of small
insignificant animals is of no possible value to the world, in dollars and cents
or in anything else. To this attitude the present Encyclopedia brings an answer.
In the first place, the very production of the Encyclopedia implies that people
want to know about the science of the North, including the little as well as the

EA-Zoo. Dunbar: Foreword

big animals, so that one object of field research may be found in the satis–
faction of this general desire for knowledge. And secondly, it is made clear
in the following pages that the control of the resources of the North, and
their proper development and conservation, are quite impossible without the
fullest knowledge of the total “biomass,” the whole of the living complex,
in the northern environments. The smallest of the microorganisms of the
soil, the single-celled plants and animals of the sea, are ultimately as
important as the whales,walrus,and caribou, and demand as much attention from
the biologist.
Finally, and in connection with microorganisms, one last word about the
Protozoa. The small amount of work that has been published on the Protozoa
in the Arctic did not justify the preparation of a special article on them.
Such an article must wait upon the protozoologists, and upon the next edition
of this Encyclopedia .
Max M. J. Dunbar
HomeForeword : Encyclopedia Arctica 3: Zoology (Excluding Birds)
 Text Only
 Text & Inline Image
 Text & Image Viewer
 Image Viewer Only