Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature

Front Cover
University of California Press, 2000 - Nature - 351 pages
3 Reviews
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.

What people are saying - Write a review

SNAKES: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature

User Review  - Kirkus

A comprehensive and deeply satisfying exploration of that much-maligned creature, the snake, from herpetologist Greene (Univ. of Calif., Berkeley). Serpents have had a checkered history: They may have ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I have a small library of reptile books, which I have amassed over the years. Most of them are treated as reference books with very few of them being read cover to cover more than once.However, in this instance, Harry Greene has produced one of the best books I have ever read on snakes.
I was mesmerised from start to finish and astonished that, at last, I had found a "perfect" book about snakes. I have many books with fine illustrations combined with weak script and quite a few that are very well written but poorly illustrated, this one book is the ultimate combination of outstanding photographs and equally outstanding prose.The book is a treasure and one that I return to constantly it is a miracle that a scientist has produced such a thing of beauty! Of equal interest to the lay man and professional Herpetologist alike. It takes foremost place in my library.James Eaton.


PartOne LIFESTYLES 1 Classification and General Biology
Behavioral Complexity in Snakes
Locomotion and Habitats
Other Elongate Vertebrates
Diet and Feeding
Functional Morphology and the African Eggeating Snakes Dasypeltis
Pipesnakes Boas and Other Basal Groups
Relict Serpents Continental Dtift and Dispersal
Old World Colubrids
A Disastrous Vagabond
New World Colubtids
n Stilerto Snakes and Other African Enigmas
Cobras Coralsnakes and Their Relatives
The Coralsnake Mimicry Problem

Venomous Snakes and Snakebite
Deadly Colubtids and Famous Herpetologists
Predators and Defense
Morphological Speciali2ations for Defense in Cobras
Behavior Reproduction and Population Biology
Radio telemetry and the Annual Cycle of Blacktailed Rartlesnakes
PartTwo DIVERSITY 7 Blindsnakes
Seakraits and Seasnakes
Vipers Adders and Pitvipers
Pits and Cl as Evolurionary Innovations
Very Special Snake Fossils
Massasauga Rartlesnakes Sistninis catenatus

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2000)

Harry W. Greene is Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. He was formerly the Curator of Herpetology the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where he won the campuswide Distinguished Teaching Award in 1993. In 2000, he was awarded the third Edward Osborne Wilson Naturalist Award, presented by the American Society of Naturalists. Michael and Patricia Fogden are acclaimed nature photographers whose work has appeared in such publications as Smithsonian and Natural History, and in books published by Time-Life, National Geographic, and Audubon. They live in Costa Rica.

Bibliographic information