From tiny to gigantic, from drab to remarkably beautiful, from harmless to venomous, lizards are spectacular products of natural selection. Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity, lavishly illustrated with color photographs, is the first comprehensive reference on lizards around the world. Accessible, scientifically up-to-date, and written with contagious enthusiasm for the subject, Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity covers species evolution, diversity, ecology, and biology. Eric R. Pianka and Laurie J. Vitt have studied and photographed members of almost all lizard families worldwide, and they bring to Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity a deep knowledge based on extensive firsthand experience with the animals in their natural habitats.
Part One explores lizard lifestyles, answering such questions as why lizards are active when they are, why they behave as they do, how they avoid predators, why they eat what they eat, and how they reproduce and socialize. In Part Two the authors take us on a fascinating tour of the world's manifold lizard species, beginning with iguanians, an evolutionary group that includes some of the most bizarre lizards, the true chameleons of Africa and Madagascar. We also meet the glass lizard, able to break its tail into many highly motile pieces to distract a predator from its body; lizards that can run across water; and limbless lizards, such as snakes. Part Three gives an unprecedented global view of evolutionary trends that have shaped present-day lizard communities and considers the impact of humans on their future.
A definitive resource containing many entertaining anecdotes, this magnificent book opens a new window to the natural world and the evolution of life on earth.
"A beautiful book crammed with a wealth of information, not just about lizards, but about ecology, anatomy, physiology, biogeography, biomechanics, evolution, and ethnobiology as well. A fascinating reading for any herpetologist or natural historian, no matter how professional."
"This is a book for the home library, to be pulled down off the shelf whenever some unfamiliar creature skitters across the patio, or just to be read on rainy afternoons [...] the writing is clear, authoritative and enlivened by personal tales of lizard encounters. The photos are bright and beautiful. Just an hour or two turning the pages is guaranteed to kindle a whole new sense of wonder the next time you flick on your porch light and surprise a gecko."
– Bill Marvel, Dallas Morning News
"This engaging, well-researched volume depicts an amazing variety of lacertilian beasts in its lavish illustrations and deftly examines their bizarre lifestyles and behaviors."
– American Scientist
"All readers will find Lizards an excellent introduction to the ecology of an interesting and scientifically rewarding group of animals."
"This book is the first to provide a comprehensive introduction to the diversity of lizards [...] The authors discuss the latest research findings in readily accessible terms and provide sweeping new hypotheses about lizard diversity that will generate much discussion and research [...] This book should reach a wide audience and will undoubtedly stimulate the interest of future biologists. I wish I had had it when I was a teenager!"
- William E. Cooper, Indiana University-Purdue University
List of Tables Foreword, by Harry W. Greene
Introduction: The Logic of Biology
Part I. Lizard Lifestyles
1. Evolutionary History and Phylogeny
2. Getting Around in a Complex World
3. Lizards as Predators
4. Escaping Predators
5. Social Behavior
6. Reproduction and Life History
7. Reflections of the Real World
Part II. Lizard Diversity
9. From Geckos to Blind Lizards
10. From Racerunners to Night Lizards
12. From Girdled Lizards to Knob-Scaled Lizards
13. Monsters and Dragons of the Lizard World
Part III. Synthesis
14. Historical Perspective
15. Lizards and Humans
Appendix: Taxonomic Summary of Lizard Genera
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Eric R. Pianka is Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professor of Zoology at the University of Texas, Austin. His books include Evolutionary Ecology (sixth edition, 2000), The Lizard Man Speaks (1994), and Ecology and Natural History of Desert Lizards (1986).
Laurie J. Vitt is a George Lynn Cross Research Professor (Zoology Department) at the University of Oklahoma and Associate Director of Collections and Research at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. He is coauthor of several books, including Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles (second edition, 2000). Pianka and Vitt are also coeditors of Lizard Ecology: Historical and Experimental Perspectives (1994).