Earlier this year (July) my children’s book on Mesozoic reptiles – Dinosaurs Life Size – appeared in the shops. People seem to like it (yikes, even if some of the ‘life sized’ animals are scaled wrong). July also saw the publication of Dorling Kindersley’s Know It All (Baines 2010): I didn’t write the whole book, just the section on prehistoric animals. Today I’m pleased to announce that my third book for 2010 – Tetrapod Zoology Book One (Naish 2010) – is finally available.
Tetrapod Zoology Book One is a compilation of over 40 articles from Tet Zoo ver 1, and as such only includes articles published in 2006. Before I talk about its contents, a few shout-outs. The idea to make a book out of old blog posts was initially put to me by Karl Shuker in 2007, and Jon Downes (of CFZ Press, the book’s publisher) independently made the same suggestion at a similar time. Karl has always said that getting blog articles into published book form is wise, given that material online is ultimately ephemeral: indeed, I remain paranoid that blog articles – especially those hosted on blogspot and other such networks – might one day disappear without trace, though I don’t know how likely that is. Regular readers will know that the book could have been finished and published literally years ago had I acted sooner, but I lost momentum on it and had to shelve it while other projects took priority.
Anyway, I also owe huge thanks to Steve Backshall for writing a very kind foreward, to Tone for being so tolerant of, well, everything, and to everyone who provided help and advice during the production of the original ver 1 articles [composite image above shows, clockwise from top left: Naish, Memo and Conway; Saz Fielding and snow-dog; Neil Phillips (pointing at phasianid); Steve Backshall; Phil Budd and Bernie Dempsey in the woods; Tone and Emma; the SV-POW! boys at SVP 2009; and Mark Witton, in full regalia]. And if you’re a Tet Zoo supporter who’s not mentioned or credited in the book, that’s because the Tet Zoo community of 2006 was rather different from that of 2010.
The book is well illustrated throughout, both with photos and drawings. Some of the pictures were penned by yours truly but Mark Witton also kindly provided a few and there’s at least one world exclusive. The photos come from a variety of sources (ahh, the wonders of wikipedia), but thanks in particular to Neil Phillips for his excellent photos of British wildlife.
The colour cover – produced (at really short notice) by C. M. Köseman – is, I’m sure you’ll agree, just awesome. I released the image on the Tet Zoo facebook page a few weeks ago and a lot of people have been trying to guess which creatures it features. At the bottom, we have a Long-eared jerboa, a plethodontid salamander, Common snapping turtle, Alligator snapping turtle and White olm. A Western green lizard, Herring gull and mid-sized azhdarchid (based on Mark’s skeletal reconstruction of Zhejiangopterus) are in the middle, with a kannemeyeriiform dicynodont behind. Over at top right, we have a Shoebill and a Golden eagle, while three fossil mammals – Acrophoca, Pakicetus and Ambulocetus – are at top left. All of these animals (or members of their respective groups, at least) are discussed in the book.
The weirdness of rabbits, and other musings
Even if you’re a Tet Zoo uber-fan, it’s unlikely that you’ll remember all the articles published on ver 1, so I hope that much or even all of the material will appear novel to the majority of readers. If you’ve only been with Tet Zoo for the duration of the ScienceBlogs version (January 2007 to present), the contents will definitely be (mostly) new.
As I explain in the introduction, it all started with an article on the ability of large eagles to kill surprisingly large prey, and hence it’s only appropriate that this appears as Chapter 1. Regular readers will know that I’ve come back to this fascinating subject time and time again. Summarised very briefly, we then have 46 chapters (the book is 304 pp. long) covering such subjects as bear-eating pythons, snapping turtles, British eagle owls, Eocene stem-whales, Herring gulls and the ‘ring species’ concept, the evidence for British big cats, obscure wading and swimming mice, big-eared jerboas, sauropod hand anatomy, oviraptorosaur diversity, the freakiness of rabbits, the discovery of the Kipunji and Odedi, bird predation in noctules and other microbats, ichthyosaur wars and much, much more.
If you like Tet Zoo because of the coverage of obscure animals, you hopefully won’t be disappointed with the book’s inclusion of docodonts, Chronoperates, Australian dicynodonts and recently described South American rodents. A very long chapter on MIWG.7306 – the large brachiosaur vertebra known affectionately as ‘Angloposeidon’ – means that the name ‘Angloposeidon’ is now (shock horror) in print. More importantly, the full back-story to the paper that I and colleagues eventually published on the specimen (Naish et al. 2004) is revealed in full.
Chapters that discuss the possibility of parasite control in Mesozoic birds and other feathered theropods, new ideas about compsognathids and tyrannosauroids, and the life appearance of the weird fossil seal Acrophoca should make the book interesting reading for those of you with palaeontological interests, while the several chapters on recently discovered living species should be required reading for those interested in cryptozoology.
The chapter on pterosaur wing membranes (Chapter 30) does the job that, entirely coincidentally, Ross Elgin and colleagues have just done for a technical paper, but at least I beat them into print (kidding. My popular text is not meant to act as a competitor to a technical paper). Oh and, naturally, I included a few tiny deliberate mistakes for eagle-eyed readers (one involves cave-dwelling plethodontid salamanders). And, also too, I did done put in a few sentences what are afflicted with monstrously bad construction (I never did understand that whole active vs passive thing).
Updates: azhdarchids (again), all those giraffes, and the Isturitz statuette
Publishing a compilation of articles originally written in 2006 is a risky endeavour if you want your text to be at all contemporary and/or accurate. After all, an awful lot of new stuff has happened over the past four years. I didn’t want to go re-writing any of the articles included in the book, but I have included an ‘updates’ section. The chapter on azhdarchids is now well superseded by the research Mark and I published in 2008 (Witton & Naish 2008), but I still think it’s a useful review, and a historically significant bit of text in that it chronicles the evolution of ideas on azhdarchid palaeobiology. Chapter 2 discusses inklings (brand-new in 2006) that Giraffa camelopardalis might turn out to be more than one species, and this is also very much redundant now given the publication of Brown et al. (2007).
Another chapter – the one on the Isturitz statuette (a now-lost Palaeolithic figurine [shown here], apparently depicting a short-tailed, deep-jawed big cat) – is also now looking dated given that the identification I favoured for the statuette (the scimitar-toothed cat Homotherium) has been shown unlikely by Antón et al. (2009). They conclude that the statuette doesn’t depict Homotherium at all, but rather a Cave lion Panthera leo spelaea.
Buy it already
So, if you’re a Tet Zoo fan, I hope you’ll consider buying the book. It looks neat (if I say so myself) and is inexpensive for its size (£12.50 or $23, though not including p&p). It’s fully indexed and, as is the norm for Tet Zoo articles, contains citations and references throughout. It can be purchased from here on amazon.co.uk*, or from here on amazon.com (amazon.com doesn’t yet include a cover image, and it won’t let me upload one. Please help if you can). If you want a signed/personalised copy (as in, with a drawing inside or something), you can buy a copy directly from me, but this will be a bit more expensive because I don’t have the same privileged postal rate that amazon does. I have yet to work out the exact cost, but email me if you’re interested. You should also be able to order it at your local book store.
* Annoyingly, Amazon’s page makes it look like Steve is an author (though it is noted in the details that he only wrote the foreward). If you’re a fan, and if you have time, please consider writing a review for Amazon. No negative reviews please, only positive ones.
I have no idea how well Tetrapod Zoology Book One will sell, and the appearance of subsequent volumes will of course depend on the success of this one.
Refs – –
Antón, M., Salesa, M. J., Turner, A., Galobart, Á. & Pastor, J. F. 2009. Soft tissue reconstruction of Homotherium latidens (Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae). Implications for the possibility of representations in Palaeolithic art. Geobios 42, 541-551.
Baines, F. 2010. Know It All: Facts, Stats, Lists, Records and More. Dorling Kindersley, London.
Brown, D. M., Brenneman, R. A., Koepfli, K.-P., Pollinger, J. P., Milá, B., Georgiadis, N. J., Louis, E. E., Grether, G. F., Jacobs, D. K. & Wayne, R. K. 2007. Extensive population genetic structure in the giraffe. BMC Biology 2007, 5: 57 doi:10.1186/1741-7007-5-57
Naish, D. 2010. Tetrapod Zoology Book One. CFZ Press, Bideford.
– ., Martill, D. M., Cooper, D. & Stevens, K. A. 2004. Europe’s largest dinosaur? A giant brachiosaurid cervical vertebra from the Wessex Formation (Early Cretaceous) of southern England. Cretaceous Research 25, 787-795.