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Reptiles, Lizards And Prehistoric Beasts…

Reptiles, Lizards And Prehistoric Beasts (Ripley's Believe It or Not!)

by Howard Zimmerman

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Since its debut in 1918, Ripley’s Believe it or Not has entertained readers with strange facts, bizarre coincidences, and amazing anecdotes. Immensely popular as a syndicated newspaper panel, the enterprise spawned radio shows, films, a computer game, and at least 29 “odditorium” museums worldwide. The enterprise succeeded because its information was so reliable; in fact, Ripley’s assistants carefully searched for facts in the New York Public Library over the span of half a century

This small book focuses on the natural history of reptiles and amphibians, particularly on unusual species unfamiliar to urban and suburban readers. Only a pedant would note that the title is misleading (lizards and the prehistoric beasts, after all, are reptiles). Accompanied by pen and ink drawings, the information is always presented in tones of breathless astonishment:

”The wood turtle has a whistle that can be heard 40 feet away! “
“Snakes shed their skins 3 to 6 times each year!”
“A mother crocodile transports her babies in her mouth!”

The information is generally accurate, and only occasionally misleading:

“The hairy frog of Africa is covered with fur!” (ok, so it’s not actually fur, but small projections of skin that truly do look rather hairlike.)

“The turtle has not changed in 200 million years!” (true to a point, although most types of turtles [i.e. sea turtles, box turtles, softshell turtles] have evolved much more recently).

“Frogs sang the first love songs on earth, because they were the first to have lungs” (ah, but how about the [admittedly mute] lungfish?)

A few others are true, but actually underestimate their subject:

“The Gila monster is North America’s only poisonous lizard! (more than that, it’s the only poisonous lizard in the world).

“The tuatara, primitive reptile of New Zealand, has a third eye on top of its head!” (quite true, and so do most lizards, and arguably, birds, in the form of their light- sensitive pineal)

Very few are the sort of anecdotes that would arouse suspicions of a herpetologist:

“Three frogs were found in a potato!”
“A snake tied itself into a knot to cure a broken back!”

With curiosity about the natural world having been dulled by computers, television, and urban landscapes, a book such as this has potential to spark a reader’s curiosity about some fascinating yet endangered groups of animals. Overall, this is an amusing and entertaining little book, well - suited for young - minded readers of all ages. ( )
7 vote danielx | Aug 2, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812512901, Paperback)

Inside you will find amazing-but-true stories about:
- The frog that's a ventriloquist
- Snakes that hear with their tongues
- Mokele-Mbembe, the living dinosaur
- Giant crocodiles the size of a car
- And crocs that honk when ready to hatch
- The lizard that walks on water
- The largest amphibian in nature, the flying dragon, the strange reptile with three eyes, and much, much more.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:17 -0400)

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