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Fabulous, learned and witty collection of vignettes on extraordinary animals, beautifully illustrated by Schouten. Flannery continues to astonish as an author, ranging from ecological history (Eternal Frontier), anthropology (Throwim' Way Leg) and mammalogical works to this new study that goes a long way to show that the reality of nature is more remarkable than the wildest bestiary.
From the American Scientist review:
"The fauna that populate Astonishing Animals: Extraordinary Creatures and the Fantastic Worlds They Inhabit are beautiful, bizarre, marvelous and, yes, astonishing. The book is reminiscent of a medieval bestiary illustrated with fabulous mythical creatures. But these animals are real enough, each brought to life through artist Peter Schouten's vivid illustrations.
Author Tim Flannery writes engagingly about the 97 unusual species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish depicted here. He describes their taxonomic affiliations, geographic ranges and behavior but does not treat these topics systematically. Rather, he highlights the particular feature of the animal that merits its inclusion in the book, such as the "amazing red face" (above right) of the white uakari (Cacajao calvus calvus), a short-tailed monkey of the Amazon rain forest of northeastern Brazil, whose natives have nicknamed it "Englishman." Flannery's occasionally irreverent approach sometimes leads him to make observations that are more humorous than scientific-for example, his remark that "surely the uakari's bald head has more in common with a chimpanzee's buttocks than an Englishman's face?"
This book is a pure delight, a treasure for anyone with a penchant for the weird and wonderful. It will also appeal to biology teachers who want to inspire their charges with the extraordinary beauty and variety of the living world, and to science illustrators, who will appreciate Schouten's consummate artistry.