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Book Review: The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State

Otterwoman

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Book Review: The Amphibians and Reptiles of New York State, by Gibs, Breisch, Ducey, Johnson, Behler, and Bothner. Oxford University Press, 2007.

I really like this book. It has all the usual field guide info, such as descriptions, habits and habitats, status and distributions. The color photo section in the middle pictures each NY herp. There is a black and white range map for each animal as well. But what I like best is the clear and engaging style in which the book is written. Though this is a totally professional book, they take the trouble to answer such burning questions on the mind of the average reader as: are there really alligators in NYC sewers? (No, but there are snapping turtles.) Other "boxes" (sort of like 'asides') cover subjects such as mysterious mudpuppy die-offs, changes in spotted salamander spotting patterns due to environmental toxins, milk snake myths (they do NOT seek nutrition from farmers' cows), and the unfortunate confusion between cottonmouths (which do not even occur in NYS) and watersnakes, which leads to many watersnake killings.
The species descriptions include the meaning and origin for the scientific name of each animal, a big plus for a logophile like me. And did you know that the term for a group of salamanders is a "congress"?
Here and there among the species accounts are "Other Intriguing Facts" sections, when relevant, on a wide variety of topics. Two examples are: how hypoxia triggers the hatching of A. opacum eggs, and the communal nests of Hemidactylium scutatum.
The book has 422 pages, of which the salamander section comprises 57, frogs and toads 46, turtles 56, and lizards and snakes 56. The book concludes with several chapters that deal with issues relevant to the herpetofauna of New York in general: threats, legal protections, conservation, and even some New York amphibian and reptile folklore.
I think this is a wonderful book. Of course I devoured the salamander section, but as for the rest, I'm not really interested in frogs; I find their whole life cycle too complex and disturbing, and their extensive metamorphosis is the stuff of horror movies. To me, turtles are in the same class as human children: poop machines with cute faces and I don't want any. Although for that matter, hedgehogs and rabbits can be described this way as well, but turtles won't chew your baseboards. But I digress. My point is that this book is such a pleasurable read that despite my anurophobia, I perused much of the frog, and turtle sections as well. The reptile section required no prodding as I have snakes and a lizard.

And isn’t that a wonderful picture on the cover!
Available new on Amazon for $28.50; used from $23.23.
If you have read or own this book, please feel free to add your two cents, call me an idiot, and agree with or refute me on any point!
 

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Abrahm

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Huzzah a book review section! :grin:

Nice review! I'm always tempted to buy books with amphibian content, even if they are from a state 600 miles away... Plus all the little side bars, etymological details and full color pictures...

Loved the comments on tortoises and kids.. I feel the same way.
 
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Otterwoman

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Also...

Also, one of our esteemed site contributors (i.e. Michael Graziano) has quite a few pictures in there.

"I am Michael Graziano, and I approve this review" (well, more of a paraphrase of his comment)

Here is a direct quote from him:
"I do think it is one of the best state issued reptile and amphibian books out there, especially since it contains much more than just generic information."
 

cg

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That`s cool, I`ll have to pick up a copy, especially since James P. Gibbs was my herp prof at ESF.
 
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