O`Shea, Mark

Now in a new edition, reflecting the most recent species classifications, The Book of Snakes presents 600 species of snakes from around the world, covering roughly one in seven of all snake species. It will bring greater understanding of a group of reptiles that have existed for more than 160 million years and that now inhabit every continent except Antarctica, as well as two of the great oceans.

For millennia, humans have regarded snakes with an exceptional combination of fascination and revulsion. Some people recoil in fear at the very suggestion of these creatures, while others happily keep them as pets. Snakes can convey both beauty and menace in a single tongue flick, and so these creatures have held a special place in our cultures. Yet, for as many meanings as we attribute to snakes-from fertility and birth to sin and death – the real-life species represent an even wider array of wonders.

This volume pairs spectacular photos with easy-to-digest text. It is the first book on these creatures that combines a broad, worldwide sample with full-colour, life-size accounts. Entries include close-ups of the snake’s head and a section of the snake at actual size. The detailed images allow readers to examine the intricate scale patterns and rainbow of colours as well as special features like a cobra’s hood or a rattlesnake’s rattle. The text is written for laypeople and includes a glossary of frequently used terms. Herpetologists and herpetoculturists alike will delight in this collection, and even those with a more cautious stance on snakes will find themselves drawn in by the wild diversity of the suborder Serpentes.

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University of Chicago Press, April 2024.  656 pages, hardcover, 2400 colour photos, colour illustrations, and colour distribution maps