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Old 15th April 2008   #1
Otterwoman
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Default Book Review: Newt and Salamanders: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual (Indiviglio)

If Amphibians in Captivity seems too long to you, or if you want something you can carry in your purse or coat pocket to read on-the-run, then Frank Indiviglio's Newts and Salamanders is the way to go (New York: Barron's Educational Series, 1997, new at $7.99; used on Amazon starting at 75¢).
No space is wasted; even at only 128 pages, the conservatively sized font indicates that this is a book that means to teach you something. Its wealth of information belies its compact size.
When I read this I remember being impressed that the author does not talk down to the reader despite its being an introductory book. He assumes a respect that says he knows that only an intelligent person would be reading this book, and that the reader, the hobbyist, can also make contributions to the science and conservation of amphibians. And though by the time I'd picked up this book I'd read quite a few introductory salamander books (every one I could lay my hands on, in fact) this one contained a lot of very detailed information I hadn't come across before. Some of the things I learned are, for example, a few of the many areas of scientific research in which sals are used: axolotls to study embryology; there are antibiotic properties to amphibian skin secretions; how some amphibians use glucose to tolerate freezing temperatures.
Many of you know that P. cinereus females rate their males' fitness according to the quality of their feces, but also I'm sure that many of you do not. I first read of it in this book.
The book includes an intro to salamander classification and characteristics, biology and behaviors. Also there are sections on creating captive habitats, nutrition and feeding, health, and choosing and obtaining sals.
The species accounts were especially helpful. There was more information on more species than in any other introductory book. Though not covering as many species as Amphibians in Captivity, his accounts are more up to date and comprehensive than those in Staniszewski's.

There are also a lot of helpful drawings and many wonderful pictures, including a hellbender eating its shed. Many of these introductory books recycle the photos from one to another, and though this book has a few, most of them are new. And there are many.

There were two anecdotes that amused me tremendously. One about how he accidentally filled the house with mosquitoes when he was a young experimenter, and the second was about his friend who has an axolotl with a saproneglia infection. This axolotl, however has been "living and thriving...for many years" "in the vegetable bin of his refrigerator...much to the dismay of the other members of the household." That is the first time I had ever heard of putting an animal in the fridge, and the fact that it lived there full time filled me with awe. I almost wanted one too. Can you imagine the fun? "Grab me a beer from the bottom drawer of the fridge, please?"

This is another book that I won't lend to anyone.

After I read this book, I was moved to write a "fan" letter to the author. Imagine my surprise when he actually emailed me back! And has continued to answer the other few times I've emailed him since.

I believe that you can't have too many books; even if a book only has one useful new idea, that idea is treasure enough. That is why, despite my growing pile of introductory newt/sal books, I bought yet another. So no matter how many books you have on newts/sals, get this one too. I'm sure that you'll find more than just one new idea.
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Last edited by Otterwoman; 16th April 2008 at 16:32.
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