BOOKS: Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity & Snakes of the World
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2003:
Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity
by Eric R. Pianka & Laurie J. Vitt
University of California Press (2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA
346 pages, 218 color illustrations, hardcover. $45.00.
Snakes of the World
by Manuel Areste & Rafael Cebrian
Sterling Publishing Co. (387 Park Ave. S., New York, NY 10016), 2003.
256 pages, 256 color illustrations, hardcover. $29.95.
Lizards, the oldest family of land-dwelling vertebrates,
are the ancestors of us all. Fish, insects, and birds are more
broadly distributed, but as Harry W. Greene explains in a foreword
to Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity: “Lizards occur
in all but the highest and coldest places on earth. Some tropical
rain forests and deserts have several dozen species at a single
locality. They come in many sizes…Various lizards use winglike
flaps to glide through tropical forest canopies, strong claws to dig
burrows in prairie sod, and fringed toes to run bipedally over
windblown sand dunes.”
Some lizards are vegetarians; others hunt deer. Some live
in families, some mate for life, and a few are so solitary that
they reproduce asexually.
Eric R. Pianka and Laurie J. Vitt have produced the most
comprehensive exploration yet of the evolution, diversity, and
behavior of lizards, a perfect present for anyone with
Snakes of the World is by contrast a thorough but
conventional identification guide, and not easy to use at that,
unless you already happen to know the Latin name and classification
of the snake you are seeking.