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BOOK REVIEW

Slithy Toves

Michael Szpir

African chameleonClick to Enlarge ImageAmazonian leaf-litter geckoClick to Enlarge Image

Lizards are the real-world inspiration for the dragons of medieval fantasies, for reasons that will become obvious to readers of Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity, by Eric R. Pianka and Laurie J. Vitt (University of California Press, $45). This engaging, well-researched volume depicts an amazing variety of lacertilian beasts in its lavish illustrations and deftly examines their bizarre lifestyles and behaviors. Evolution has created some fanciful forms among these reptiles: Consider the African chameleon (Chamaeleo parsoni, far left), whose slothlike patience is matched with a wickedly quick tongue. Or the puny Amazonian leaf-litter gecko (Coleodactylus amazonicus), which weighs only half a gram when it is fully grown and is shown here carrying an egg that can be seen through the surface of its abdomen.—Michael Szpir

 

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