Crocodile: Evolution's Greatest Survivor
By Lynne Kelly
Pages: 288 pp
Edition: 1st., illustrated (July 1, 2007)
Kelly, an Australian writer and science teacher, gives readers a thorough tour of crocodilian evolution in this lively biological biography. Kelly builds her scientific investigation on a solid cultural foundation, by introducing the crocodile through folk tales of indigenous Australians, Africans, Americans and South Asians; similarly, fossils showing crocodilies have changed very little in more than 200 million years adds relevance to the old stories and weight to the sobering fact that, today, mankind has managed to kill off many crocodilian species that eons of natural selection never could. Among chapters on biology, featuring photos and drawings of characteristic behavior and skeletal structures, Kelly covers the scientific minds who came before her, such as 19th century naturalists Sir Richard Owen and Thomas Huxley ("Darwin's Bulldog"), who feuded famously over still-unresolved taxonomy issues. In addition, Kelly recounts the tales of famous crocodile hunters and infamous attacks on humans by crocodilians, discusses the continuing demand for crocodile hides and meat and investigates crocodile farming in relation to other types of animal husbandry. Kelly's treatment is clever, entertaining and complete, making this a fine read and a great example of species history done right.