An ancient animal whose ancestors have roamed the earth since the time of the dinosaurs, the crocodile has survived continental drift, ice ages and the loss of once-prolific species. Today, the Australian saltie, the Chinese alligator, the Indian gharial and the black caiman are just some of the twenty-three species of crocodilian descendants found across the world.Human interaction with these dangerous yet intriguing animals has been reflected in myths and legends dating back to earliest recorded history. Feared or revered, crocodilians have always fascinated. Sadly, many breeds of this seemingly indestructible species are now facing extinction because of human activity, intrusion into their habitats and retaliation for the threat they pose to humans.This is the fascinating and extraordinary story of the crocodile, one of evolution's greatest survivors.Lynne Kelly has been teaching science, mathematics and gifted education for over 30 years. She holds a degree in engineering, education and computing, and is the author of numerous books and online courses for education, a novel and a popular science title, The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal.
Kelly, an Australian writer and science teacher, gives readers a thorough tour of crocodilian evolution in this lively biological biography. Kelly builds her scientific investigation on a solid cultural foundation, by introducing the crocodile through folk tales of indigenous Australians, Africans, Americans and South Asians; similarly, fossils showing crocodilies have changed very little in more than 200 million years adds relevance to the old stories and weight to the sobering fact that, today, mankind has managed to kill off many crocodilian species that eons of natural selection never could. Among chapters on biology, featuring photos and drawings of characteristic behavior and skeletal structures, Kelly covers the scientific minds who came before her, such as 19th century naturalists Sir Richard Owen and Thomas Huxley ("Darwin's Bulldog"), who feuded famously over still-unresolved taxonomy issues. In addition, Kelly recounts the tales of famous crocodile hunters and infamous attacks on humans by crocodilians, discusses the continuing demand for crocodile hides and meat and investigates crocodile farming in relation to other types of animal husbandry. Kelly's treatment is clever, entertaining and complete, making this a fine read and a great example of species history done right.