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Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature

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This is a book about some of nature's most alluring and forbidding creatures, written by a man with an abiding passion for snakes, as well as for science, the fate of the planet, and the wonder of life. Harry Greene presents every facet of the natural history of snakes—their diversity, evolution, and conservation—and at the same time makes a personal statement of why these animals are so compelling.

This book provides an up-to-date summary of the biology of snakes on a global basis. Eight chapters are devoted to general biology topics, including anatomy, feeding, venoms, predation and defense, social behavior, reproduction, evolution, and conservation; eight chapters survey the major snake groups, including blindsnakes, boas, colubrids, stiletto snakes, cobras, sea snakes, and vipers. Details of particular interest, such as coral snake mimicry and the evolution of the0 rattle, are highlighted as special topics. Chapter introductory essays are filled with anecdotes that will tempt nonspecialists to read on, while the book's wealth of comprehensive information will gratify herpeto-culturalists and professional biologists.

Greene's writing is clear, engaging, and full of appreciation for his subject. Michael and Patricia Fogden are known internationally for their outstanding work, and their stunning color photographs of snakes in their natural habitats are a brilliant complement to Greene's text. Here is a scientific book that provides accurate information in an accessible way to general readers, strongly advocates for a persecuted group of animals, encourages conservation—not just of snakes but of ecosystems—and credits science for enriching our lives. In helping readers explore the role of snakes in human experience, Greene and the Fogdens show how science and art can be mutual pathways to understanding.

366 pages, Paperback

First published May 18, 1997

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About the author

Harry W. Greene

23 books13 followers
Harry W. Greene is the Stephen Weiss Presidential Fellow and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University and the recipient of the E.O. Wilson Award from the American Society of Naturalists. His book Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature (UC Press), won the PEN Literary Award and was a New York Times Notable Book.

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Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews
Profile Image for Todd Martin.
Author 4 books73 followers
November 29, 2010
“Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature” is the combination of a glossy coffee table book coupled with detailed scientific text.

First of all, the photos are outstanding and easily the best part of the book. Care was taken to photograph snakes in their natural habitats and they definitely do justice to the beauty of these reptiles (as a bit of a caution, a few of the feeding photos are not for the squeamish). The photographers, Michael and Patricia Fogden, both have doctorates in zoology, which I suspect helps them obtain such great pictures that illustrate not just the animals, but their behavior as well. Their website may be found at: http://www.fogdenphotos.com/dbm.html

The text (written by Harry W. Greene, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University) is informative and covers all aspects of snake physiology, evolution, diet, locomotion, reproduction, behavior and habitat. My main criticism of the book is that Greene appears to be writing for his colleagues as opposed to the general public. As a result the text is dry, densely worded and replete with scientific terms which he fails to take the time to define, assuming the reader is well versed in graduate level biology. Greene’s paragraphs also tend to read like a grocery list (an analogy that only works if you were shopping for snakes, I suppose): snake ‘w’ eats frogs, snake ‘x’ eats eggs, snake ‘y’ eats ants, snake ‘z’ eats lizards, etc. There is some good information to be found, but it’s a bit of a chore to plow through.
Displaying 1 - 4 of 4 reviews

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