Snakebit : Confessions of a Herpetologist

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2011-05-24
  • Publisher: Greystone Books
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"Snakebit" traces author Leslie Anthony's journey from a childhood fascination with snakes and amphibians through academic flirtation to professional association with some of the world's greatest herpetologists. In this book, he leads the reader on a rollicking ride through desert, swamp, jungle -- and a few laboratories -- to reveal the strange world of these cryptic creatures and the often-stranger fraternity that pursues them. Detailing his travels to New Orleans, Mexico, Fiji, Vietnam, Armenia, and Canada, Anthony offers a headlong, fun-for-all read packed with personalities, history, geography, culture, and adventure. Along the way, readers are served a generous helping of saccharine-free science, from modern evolutionary theory to uni-sexuality and biodiversity, always seasoned with more than a dash of humor.


[From Chapter 7: A Day in Hell]The ocean is a desert with its life underground.--America, "A Horse with No Name"When he found himself slipping through rotten ice on the Haliburton beaver pond like a hot Texan through butter, Dr. Bob was wont to wax poetic about the desert's more familiar hazards: sunstroke, dehydration, and the host of life lining up to stick things into your flesh. He also enjoyed transporting graduate students with little experience outside the not-so-perilous forests of eastern Canada directly to his favorite laboratory: the bleak, heavily scarified blast furnace of Baja California.When my number came up in May 1988, amid tidying up my own spring field season, moving in with my fiancée, and daily ROMMY rehearsals, Bob's invitation seemed like a welcome respite from a stressful schedule. Something different. A bona fide vacation.Baja was indeed a whole new ball game but not the kind I'd expected. From the moment we touched down in Los Angeles, everything became a hanging question. "What are we bringing?""Not sure yet.""What are we driving down in?""Not sure yet.""Who else is coming?""Not sure yet.""When are we leaving?""Maybe tomorrow, maybe not.""Where, exactly, are we going?"Now that's a good question . . . "That "we" included expedition co-chaotician Dr. David Morafka of California State University at Dominguez Hills, a respected herpetologist, Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) expert, and longtime buddy of Murphy's who had a similar get-things-done-in-spite-of-yourself approach. For instance, when the pair finally declared themselves "organized" for this two-week expedition, our provisions consisted of a box of cookies, a couple cans of beans, a speargun, an amateur herper from Arizona who claimed to know how to use it, and a map to all the taco stands on the peninsula. The cookies were gone before we reached the border.In Baja we followed the Pacific coast south, pulling off in Ensenada for street-side fish tacos, a famously delicious introduction to local cuisine and a surefire way to inoculate yourself with Salmonella, E. coli, and three flavors of dysentery. A crumpled map was spread over the hood of Morafka's aging Toyota 4x4 . We would continue south to El Rosario, cross the peninsula overnight, then hit the Sea of Cortés at Bahia de Los Angeles. We would work our way south to the resort area of Loreto and beyond to Bahia Agua Verde. We would collect in important mainland sites along the way, but our main objective was to hit key offshore islands to collect rattlesnakes, or cascabeles (bells), as locals called them.

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