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Windows to the Evolution of Diversity

Eric P. Pianka (Author), Laurie J. Vitt (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 348 pages
ISBN: 9780520248472
May 2006
$38.95, £30.00
Other Formats Available:
From tiny to gigantic, from drab to remarkably beautiful, from harmless to venomous, lizards are spectacular products of natural selection. This book, 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 the book 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.
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
8. Iguanians
9. From Geckos to Blind Lizards
10. From Racerunners to Night Lizards
11. Skinks
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
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).
"This engaging, well-researched volume depicts an amazing variety of lacertilian beasts in its lavish illustrations and deftly examines their bizarre lifestyles and behaviors."—Michael Szpir American Scientist
"Eric R. Pianka and Laurie J. Vitt have produced the most comprehensive exploration yet of the evolution, diversity, and behavior of lizards, a perfect present for anyone with herpetological interests."—Merritt Clifton Animal People
“This book’s interesting color photographs of lizards may astonish an unsuspecting reader. . . . Impressive fieldwork around the planet by Professors Pianka and Vitt give this book credence and a cutting-edge character. . . . Delightful personal stories break up the text and add a sense of humor and reality to the work of these scientists. . . . Together, they form an ideal team to introduce lizards, and to the general ecological principles that govern their lives.”—Matt Mathias Audubon Naturalist News
“The authors take the reader on a fascinating tour of the world’s manifold lizard species . . .”—Biology Digest
“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.“—Copeia
"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
“The writing is clear, authoritative and enlivened by personal tales of lizard encounters.”—Bill Marvel Dallas Morning News
"This book seems to be 'all you ever wanted to know about lizards.'"—Ecology
"All readers will find Lizards an excellent introduction to the ecology of an interesting and scientifically rewarding group of animals."—Martin J. Whiting Science (AAAS)
"Carefully researched . . . comprehensive and scientific."—Science News
“Enjoyable. . . . Delightful.”—Kevin E. Bonine Sonoran Herpetologist
“The first comprehensive reference on lizards around the world.”—Judy Randle Tulsa World
"This book is the first to provide a comprehensive introduction to the diversity of lizards and their major adaptive features. The scope and mastery of the material are truly impressive. 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 among lizard specialists, community ecologists, and evolutionary biologists. 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

"It was a treat to read this book. Together Pianka and Vitt form an unbeatable team of lizard experts. Vitt has extensive experience in South America and tropical forests, as well as southwestern U.S. deserts, whereas Pianka has specialized in deserts of Australia, southern Africa, and North America. They have spent a lot of time in the field studying lizards, and this is apparent in the text. I especially enjoyed the personal vignettes, which add to the liveliness of the book. This is a wonderful synthesis and a great addition to the herpetological literature."—David B. Wake, University of California, Berkeley

"No one knows lizards better than Pianka and Vitt. These master naturalists and master ecologists have combined forces to provide a scholarly—yet accessible and personal—overview on the biology of a fascinating group of organisms. If you like lizards, you must read this book. If you don’t like lizards but still have an open mind, you really should read this book. If you’re not sure whether you like lizards, you definitely should read this book."—Raymond B. Huey, University of Washington

"This book provides an excellent overview of the staggering diversity of lizards, highlighting not only the intrinsically fascinating traits of these reptiles but also their appropriateness as models for evolutionary and ecological studies. The authors’ thorough treatment of lizard biology is engagingly presented and is enhanced by personal insights derived from decades of fieldwork in the deserts and rain forests of the world."—Aaron M. Bauer, Villanova University

Robert W. Hamilton Faculty Author Award, University of Texas at Austin and University Cooperative Society

Oklahoma Book Awards, Oklahoma Center for the Book

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