Cryptozoology Book Picks

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All reviews are from The Cryptozoology Review, and are copyright. Reviews by Ben S. Roesch, unless otherwise noted.

In Deeper Waters: Photographic Studies of Hawaiian Deep-Sea Habitats and Life-Forms
by E.H. Chave and Alexander Malahoff.
University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 1998, 128 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-8248-2003-7. $36.00 (US). price: $25.20. Also available: softcover edition. $19.95. price: $15.96.

Since 1965, the Hawai'i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) at the University of Hawai'i has been exploring the deep waters off the Hawaiian Islands using deep-water submersibles. In Deeper Waters is a result of this on-going project, presenting a well-illustrated survey of the geology and organisms of this area.

The book is beautiful, with an attractive layout and many photographs of geological features and spectacular deep-sea animals. My favourite photo is probably that of a ghostly, 3 m long octopus (Cirroteuthis sp.) hovering over the rocky bottom at 1300 m (p. 57). Due to my ichthyological bias, I especially liked the shots of rare deep-sea fishes and sharks; one shows a tan goosefish (Sladenia remiger) perched atop a rock formation, glaring with a humourous and seemingly surprised look at the viewer (p. 75). A host of bizarre invertebrates are pictured as well, such as slug-like holothurians (sea cucumbers) and glass rope sponges standing like sentries on the sea floor (pp. 49 and 30, respectively).

Each photo caption includes the common and scientific names and size of the animal(s) pictured, as well as notes on substrate and depth. Overall, the photos are a little small, and the resolution of some of them could be better, but they are still spectacular. After all, taking photos in the deep-sea is not easy.

The illustrations are nicely supplemented by an informative and readable text, which comments on most of the photos (including occasional anecdotes on how the photos were obtained), with interesting and pertinent background information tossed in. The chapters on deep-sea ecology and deep-sea animals, which make up the bulk of the book, are especially interesting; the latter is organized taxonomically, from sponges to fishes. I would have liked to have seen more detail in the text, but as a popular book the book succeeds. If one wants to learn more, In Deeper Waters has a bibliography, and references are provided throughout the text.

The book ends with a useful 33 page table listing all animals recorded by HURL submersibles. Besides locality, depth, substrate and other details, references are provided for each.

In Deeper Waters is an interesting, beautiful and well-illustrated look at deep-sea animals and geology rarely seen by human eyes.

Cryptozoology A to Z
by Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark
Simon & Schuster, New York, 1999, 270 pp., softcover, ISBN 0-684-85602-6. $13.00 (US). price: $10.40.

Responding to the lack of an encyclopedia of cryptozoology, Loren Coleman, a well-known cryptozoologist, and Jerome Clark, a researcher of strange phenomena, have produced an A to Z handbook of the subject. While not as comprehensive as a full-fledged encyclopedia, Cryptozoology A-Z is an excellent introduction and reference to the field.

The authors have crammed quite a bit of material into 270 pages. The first entry is "Abominable Snowman"; the last, "Zuiyo-maru Monster" (a rotting basking shark, resembling a plesiosaur, that was trawled up by a Japanese ship in 1976). In between are dozens of other entries, including cryptozoological stars such as the Loch Ness monster and bigfoot, as well as lesser-known cryptids such as the Olgoi-Khorkhoi, a worm-like creature from Mongolia, and the Nahuelito, a lake monster from Argentina. Besides cryptids, there are also entries on general topics such as living fossils and cryptids, as well as cryptozoological evidence such as the Pangboche hand and the Patterson film. Some of the more illustrious new animal species discovered in the last century and a half are also given entries, from the okapi right up to the recent spectacular discoveries of new mammals in southeast Asia. A large chunk of the book is comprised of entries on many different cryptozoologists. Although there is a probably unintentional bias towards North American cryptozoologists, the biographical entries in Cryptozoology A-Z make it the most comprehensive source of information on cryptozoologists available.

The entries range in length from one paragraph to several pages. I found the content to be too concise; some entries could have been much longer and coverage was not always comprehensive. I assume this was due to space constraints, but it is too bad that the publishers were not willing to allow a longer, more in-depth book. Still, Cryptozoology A-Z provides an excellent introduction to many aspects of cryptozoology. Those who are more knowledgeable about cryptozoology will find much of the content familiar--presumably, the book was written for a more general audience--but the book remains a valuable reference. Also, some obscure or unpublished material is present, including first-hand information from the discoverers of the Indonesian coelacanth population.

Coleman & Clark generally do not come to any conclusions about the different cryptids discussed. Instead they give information about the history and alleged nature of the cryptid, and then leave the matter of judgment to the reader. Nonetheless, they do give some opinions. I was happy to see that ideas of living dinosaurs and pterosaurs were not given much credence. The authors also agreed with my research criticizing the idea that the giant prehistoric shark Carcharocles (or Carcharodon) megalodon is not extinct.

I noticed a few errors in Cryptozoology A-Z. In the entry for megalodon, the authors wrongly implicate Matt Bille as a proponent of the idea that the shark is still alive (Coleman & Clark have apologized for this). My name is present in a few places in the book--although this is flattering, I cannot help but nitpick some minor errors. It is said that I am "intrigued by rumours of a giant cookie-cutter shark" (p. 208); this is true, but I now believe that such rumours have been fueled by the misidentification of Pacific sleeper shark (Somniosus pacificus) bite marks found on a whale carcass. The authors also state that "cryptozoology played a role in identifying the most recent verified megamouth from the Philippines" (p. 156), because I was the first person to identify the shark, from photos. However, since I am a shark researcher, I made that identification in a marine biological capacity, not cryptozoological. Finally, Coleman & Clark cite me as saying that Eugenie Clark gave a lecture tour in Canada in 1996; in fact, these lectures took place in 1992.

I was not particularly happy to see entries on the nine types of mystery primates proposed by Coleman & Patrick Huyghe in their recent book (see the following review). In the entry on chupacabras--which I do not think is a cryptozoological entity, nor real to begin with--I was disappointed that no note was made of the generally shoddy evidence for the chupacabras. The fact that chupacabras is entirely a Hispanic phenomena, and that there was media-driven hysteria that peaked and then died in a matter of two years, is mentioned, but generally played down. In my mind, this clearly points to culturally transmitted contagion fueled by a mixture of folklore, hyperbole, and attacks on livestock by feral dogs and other wildlife.

An entry on the piasa, an alleged Indian thunderbird of sorts, is included. The authors, however, do not take into account John Moore's important paper on the subject, which I think clearly shows the entire case to be more myth than reality. Finally, a biography of zoologist John MacKinnon is present, as if to say he is a cryptozoologist. I do not think MacKinnon has ever thought of himself as a cryptozoologist, and he might not like to be called one either. What I found strange is that MacKinnon has still been included, yet so many of the scientists involved with the International Society of Cryptozoology were not given biographical entries.

Regardless of my criticisms, Cryptozoology A-Z is well-illustrated, with many photographs and drawings. A timeline of important animal discoveries and cryptozoological milestones is found at the beginning of the book. Coleman & Clark also present a short introduction that provides background on cryptozoology. At the end of the book, an appendix includes details on cryptozoology museums and exhibitions, as well as cryptozoological periodicals and web sites. There is also a good list of cryptozoological books for further reading. No index is present, but this is understandable as the book is already arranged in an easily navigable fashion.

Although various corrections and the inclusion of more content would have made Cryptozoology A-Z better, it remains an excellent introduction to the subject. It is a useful reference and is a must-have for anyone interested in cryptozoology.

The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide
by Loren Coleman & Patrick Huyghe
Avon Books, New York, 1999, 207 pp., softcover, ISBN 0-380-80263-5. $12.50 (US). price: $10.00.

In this book, authors Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe present a rather provocative and radical theory: there are nine distinct "classes" of mystery primates existing worldwide. The book begins with an introduction that describes some background information as to how the authors came to this startling conclusion. It also includes descriptions of the natural history and appearance of their nine different types: neo-giant, true giant, marked hominid, neandertaloid, erectus hominid, proto-pygmy, unknown pongid, giant monkey, and merbeing. The core of the book is comprised of one-page summaries about different mystery primates from around the world, with an illustration of the creature on the facing page. The summaries usually concentrate on one eyewitness report. The authors group the sightings into chapters based on geographical locality: North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. An afterword is included which discusses various topics, including how the animals could remain undiscovered today, evidence, hoaxes, the effect of culture on sightings, and the authors' opinions on which mystery primates are most likely to be found.

Though their book is interesting, I am not convinced by Coleman & Huyghe's classification system, which resembles Bernard Heuvelmans' nine-part sea serpent scheme presented in In the Wake of the Sea Serpents (1968). I find that, like Heuvelmans' outline, Coleman & Huyghe's classification scheme is constructed on evidence of insufficient quality to support such a radical hypothesis. Much of the evidence presented as support for the existence of the nine types of mystery primates is anecdotal. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence is not scientifically valid; it is often vague and can be interpreted in many ways. (Some of the reports Coleman & Huyghe include are more compelling than others, such as a 1987 sighting of a "proto-pygmy" by a mycologist in Guyana.)

In defense of the authors, I think that instead of attempting to provide scientific, biological classifications--which I certainly feel would be unwarranted--the authors seem simply to want to outline some different groups of mystery primates in general, descriptive, non-scientific terms. Still, I find it debatable whether reliable classifications of unknown animals, even if not scientific, can be based on anecdotal evidence. I don't think we can reliably split mystery primate reports into nine distinct types; most of the different types could be lumped together, as the eyewitness reports are typically very similar. For example, marked hominids are said to differ from neo-giants (such as the sasquatch) in that they have a piebald colouring and are "more human-looking and somewhat shorter" (p. 20). To me, these supposedly diagnostic characteristics are too vague and open to misinterpretation. The concept of "human-like" may vary from person-to-person, and how can we be sure that eyewitnesses are accurately recording height? As for the piebald colouring, this could be caused by effects of sunlight and shade, or colour variation within a single hypothetical species, such as the neo-giant. This latter point is also applicable to the shortness of marked hominids--how do we know witnesses aren't seeing short individuals (perhaps females or juveniles) of neo-giants? Arguments like these are relevant for most of the nine "classes" proposed by Coleman & Huyghe. I think there is a possibility that an unknown giant primate may exist on Earth--perhaps even two--but, given the evidence at hand, I have a very hard time accepting that there are nine species.

Two of the nine especially stand out in my mind as too bizarre to accept. The first is the "merbeing", including the chupacabras, traditional merfolk, and even Steller's "sea-ape". I feel that the chupacabras has no place in cryptozoology (see previous review), and, for what it's worth, I have never heard of it described as an aquatic creature. I totally disagree that Steller's "sea-ape" is indicative of a species of ocean-going primate. Steller's description does not sound like a primate at all. I think other explanations for Steller's "sea-ape", such as the Hawaiian monk seal hypothesis, make a lot more sense. Reports of traditional merfolk are rare and probably represent misidentifications of known animals. As for the general concept of "merbeings", which Coleman & Huyghe propose are primates adapted to life in water, I note that there are no aquatic primates, and there is no good evidence that there ever have been.

The second group I find highly problematic is the "true giants", which are supposed to be 20 ft high and skinny. I find this morphology inconceivable for a bipedal mammal, due to resultant problems with the circulatory system and back and bone stress. Also, it seems very unlikely to me that 20 ft tall unknown primates could remain unknown, especially considering its proposed worldwide range, including much of North America.

One aspect of Coleman & Huyghe's work I feel could cause confusion is their use of the term "classes" in describing the different types of unknown giant primates. In biological taxonomy, classes include such designations as mammals, cephalopods, birds, and cartilaginous fish. Although Coleman & Huyghe's classification scheme probably was not meant to be scientific (that is, not meant to conform precisely with accepted biological taxonomy), perhaps a different word than "class" should have been used, or at least a disclaimer could have been included saying that they were not suggesting each type of mystery primate constitutes a new biological class.

The book purports to be a field guide, but I find the illustrations provided to be undiagnostic--they are too cartoonish to be acceptable for field identification, and many of the illustrations look remarkably similar. As might be expected in a field guide, details about food, daily habits, distribution, and other aspects of natural history are provided for each of the nine types, but the accuracy of such information should be questioned because it is based largely on eyewitness testimony.

I have been highly critical of Coleman & Huyghe's book so far. The book does have merits. There are good references for each sighting, and a decent bibliography (unfortunately, there is no index). I am happy that the authors reject paranormal claims about mystery primates (despite this, the book is invariably placed in the paranormal/"new age" section of every bookstore where I have seen it). The book is generally well-written and easy to read. Overall, Coleman & Huyghe's volume does provide an interesting survey of many mystery primate sightings and legends from around the world--I just don't agree with their classification scheme and some of their conclusions.

The Search for the Giant Squid
by Richard Ellis
Penguin USA, 1999, 336 pp., softcover, ISBN 0-140-28676-4. $14.95. price: $11.96.

It is odd to think that an entire book could be written about an animal that has never been seen alive. This has not phased Richard Ellis, however, who has continued his tradition of impressive marine natural history books (including The Book of Sharks, The Book of Whales, and Monsters of the Sea) with an excellent new tome about the world's only certifiable sea monster---the giant squid (Architeuthis spp.).

The book is not solely about Architeuthis. An understanding of Architeuthis requires an understanding of squids, spineless yet complex creatures. In one of the early chapters Ellis concisely draws together a large amount of material, covering the in's and out's of squid anatomy, behaviour and biology. This chapter contains one of the very few errors in the book: the illustration of an Architeuthis beak (p. 39) shows the upper half of the beak to be the larger than the lower, like a parrot's; in reality, the lower is the larger, as Ellis correctly notes in the text.

Though the giant squid is not strictly cryptozoological, it is probably responsible for some sightings of sea serpents, Ellis argues. He largely reiterates the points and examples he raised in his book Monsters of the Sea (1995), but adds a few more cases to show his point. While he seems slightly less adamant this time around, Ellis sticks with his theory. To me, it certainly appears likely that a number of sea serpent sightings are in fact those of giant squid, creatures strange and monstrous enough to evoke images of sea serpents in the minds of those who have seen it. Some of the alleged sea serpent sightings that Ellis explains as giant squid don't convince me as easily, however. His interpretation of the Valhalla sea serpent, observed off Brazil in 1905 by two naturalists, requires us to believe that a giant squid was swimming on its side near the surface, with one tentacle and one half of its tail fin sticking out of the water. It seems more unlikely that a giant squid would do this than to unquestionably call the Valhalla creature a sea serpent! As Ellis notes, however, we know so little about the giant squid that we cannot say that it does not do this.

Such is the mystery of Architeuthis. The creature has a long and convoluted taxonomy, Ellis shows, as he wades through the many species attributed to the genus Architeuthis over the years. Despite its messy taxonomy, the giant squid is not hard to recognize when it washes up on beaches worldwide. Ellis looks at these carcasses from a historical perspective, showing how scientists slowly began to learn more about Architeuthis, which had for so many years been considered mythical.

Even today, however, little is known about Architeuthis, but this allows Ellis to incorporate every detail of what we do know about its biology into his book. We learn about baby giant squids, such as a tiny individual with a mantle length of only 1 cm netted off Australia in 1981; the reproduction of the giant squid, including the male's hypodermic sperm transfer system; the debate about whether the giant squid is sluggish or an active, voracious creature (much to the chagrin of monster-lovers, the former appears most likely); and many other facets of Architeuthis' biology.

One of the most vivid sea stories is that of the giant squid and the sperm whale locked in combat, but in reality, Ellis explains, the combat is not much of a contest, as the sperm whale always takes the prize. Furthermore, sperm whales usually eat smaller squids, with Architeuthis comprising only a fraction of its diet. A few of these squids, some quite large themselves, are discussed, including the fabulous Taningia danae, a deep-water, 7-foot-long "winged" demon of a squid, with large eyes, hooked suckers, and a pair of "stroboscopic arm flashers". It is a fantastic creature, but not as fantastic as the claims, which Ellis reasonably discounts in this chapter, of huge Architeuthis sucker marks found on the carcasses of sperm whales taken by whaling ships.

Because of its monstrous nature and its prominence in myth, it is not surprising that the giant squid has a rich literary and cinematic career, upon which Ellis bases a witty, sarcastic chapter. He exposes the errors and inherent silliness of many interpretations of Architeuthis in the media, from Jules Vernes to Peter Benchley, and from Reap the Wild Wind to the recent TV movie Beast. Also in this chapter are reports of ship-sinking giant squid, giant giant squids---that is, over the accepted maximum length of 18 m---and other cryptozoological accounts said to be true. Ellis takes a skeptical standpoint on many of the reports, and rightly so, as they often seem unbelievable or unlikely.

Architeuthis' impressiveness has made it a desirable item for museums and zoos. Due to its rarity, however, these institutions have usually had to settle with life sized models. After tracing the history of these various models, Ellis finishes with a conclusion that questions the skeptical viewpoint that he maintains throughout the book. A useful, referenced appendix is provided that lists all known sightings and strandings of giant squid. Also included is an extensive bibliography, which lists nearly every paper, book and article ever published on Architeuthis.

There is little wrong with Ellis' book. It is somewhat repetitious in parts, and sometimes discusses the same material Ellis covered in his Monsters of the Sea. At some points the author's style seems a little loose, and tighter editing could have removed some redundancy. These are minor points, however, that take little away from Ellis' enjoyable prose, which is nicely supplemented by many beautiful illustrations, several by the author. Ellis is to be commended for his excellent research, apparent throughout the book. The Search for the Giant Squid is a well written, useful and interesting work that pays tribute to one of the world's last monsters. (An edited version of this review originally appeared in Fortean Times).

The Origin and Evolution of Birds 2nd ed.
by Alan Feduccia
Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1999, 466 pp., softcover, ISBN 0-300-07861-7. $29.95 (US).

Alan Feduccia is well known in palaeontological circles as one of a small group of palaeontologists and ornithologists who disagree with the popular view that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, and also disagree that bird flight evolved from the ground up. Instead, they propose that birds evolved from a different reptilian ancestor that appeared much earlier than the first bird-like dinosaurs, and that flight evolved from the tree down. While I do not agree with Feduccia's theories of bird origins, I still think his views are well worth reading so that one can get both sides of the story. In this second edition, there is also an additional chapter updating the book from the 1996 original, including discussion of the recent discoveries of feathered dinosaurs and early birds.

Even if you do not agree with Feduccia's non-dinosaurian bird origin theories, you will find his book to be a valuable source of information on prehistoric birds. He presents a comprehensive history of birds, discussing the origins, evolution, and biology of all the major extant groups, as well as various extinct groups. Among my favourite extinct birds are the enormous, carnivorous flightless phorusrhacids. Feduccia also discusses such interesting topics as the evolution in birds of filter-feeding, flightlessness, and aquatic lifestyles. Of cryptozoological interest are the sections on moa, teratorns (sometimes implicated in "thunderbird" sightings), shoebill and marabou storks (possibly responsible for some "living pterosaur" sightings in Africa), and the large, extinct flightless bird Sylviornis (Feduccia briefly mentions its role in the oral tradition of the people of New Caledonia, where it lived).

The text, which is fairly well-written, is supplemented by a profuse number of illustrations--including maps, photos, line drawings, paintings, and diagrams--that adorn every page. An excellent references section is provided, as well as a good index.

Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World
by Tony Juniper & Mike Parr
Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, 1998, 584 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-300-07453-0. $55.00 (US). price: $38.50.

This dense tome provides a comprehensive guide to all parrot species. Data on most identifiable subspecies are also included. Beautiful colour plates and diagnostic traits of each species are provided, making the book a valuable field guide. However, Parrots differs from many field guides in that the species descriptions feature a great deal of biological data, including ecology, distribution, vocalizations, and life history. An introduction to parrot evolution, systematics, and natural history is found at the beginning of the book.

Due to illegal trade and habitat destruction, many parrots are endangered, and the book also includes excellent conservation data. Distribution maps are present for each species. An extensive bibliography is provided. The index is good, but there is no listing by genera (just by vernacular and specific names), which I found unusual.

Parrots is an excellent reference and field guide to the diversity of parrot species; anyone interested in ornithology should purchase this volume.

Bigfoot Sasquatch Evidence
by Dr. Grover S. Krantz
Hancock House, Surrey, British Columbia, 1999, 348 pp., softcover, ISBN 0-88839-447-0, $17.95.

Grover Krantz is a sasquatch researcher who is well-qualified to investigate claims regarding giant primates galavanting in the backwoods of North America. A physical anthropologist by training, he has been involved in sasquatch research for over 25 years, and has published some interesting material. The culmination of his research is this book--originally published as Big Footprints in 1992, and now reissued under a different title and with a new addendum.

The main chapters of the book are unchanged from the original edition. After an introduction, Krantz launches into two long chapters on footprints and print anatomy. These are interesting and I like the fact that much of Krantz's sasquatch research relies on physical phenomena rather than eyewitness testimony. An entire chapter is devoted to an in-depth analysis of the Patterson film. Krantz concludes that the footage is not a hoax and thus shows a real sasquatch. I am not totally convinced, but Krantz's analysis is interesting and remains one of the better treatments of the film. Another chapter details non-footprint sasquatch evidence--hair, feces, and other traces. There is a chapter in which Krantz writes about the possible biology and life styles of sasquatch. I find that much of this is speculation, and often not supported by a great deal of evidence. It is fun to read, if one takes it with a skeptical eye. Overall, Krantz is fairly rational, even though he concludes that sasquatch does exist. In a chapter called "The Fossil Record", he states that it probably represents a species of the extinct giant ape Gigantopithecus. I think this conclusion may be premature, and all depends on how one reconstructs the life-appearance of Gigantopithecus. Some scientists think the creature was more like a giant gorilla, mostly walking about on all fours, rather than a bipedal primate, as sasquatch reports indicate. Krantz, however, opines that it was more bipedal, which of course makes it a better candidate for sasquatch. The problem is that there is little fossil material--just jaw fragments and teeth. Still, Gigantopithecus is probably more likely than many of the other candidates for sasquatch, such as Homo erectus, Australopithecus etc.

Another chapters focuses on mystery primate reports from elsewhere in the world, and two others discuss the hunters and scientists, respectively, behind the search for sasquatch. The latter two chapters are an interesting insider's look at the various personalities involved in sasquatch research. In the former chapter, Krantz is critical of "splitters" who think there are many different species of giant unknown primates worldwide; he concludes that there is only one and that it ranges from North America into Asia. In the addendum, however, Krantz revises his view, stating that there are probably three mystery primates in existence: a type of orang-utan-like primate in China and Indonesia (the yeren and sedapa or orang-pendek), a Gigantopithecus (sasquatch), and a human-like primate from central Asia (almasty). I think this outline is fairly acceptable, if we accept the available evidence, though I think the orang-pendek is probably more likely to exist than the sasquatch.

The 45 page addendum is a very good addition. It is presented as a chapter-by-chapter update, including corrections, of the original material. I would have preferred a completely revised book, rather than just tacking on an update at the end. However, I do understand time and publishing constraints. It is still interesting to read what Krantz originally wrote and then see what has happened since then, and how his views have changed.

Finally, a short but useful bibliography and a good index are present. Many illustrations supplement the text, including line drawings, maps, graphs, and many photographs of skulls and bones, people, and tracks.

Three journal articles--two by Krantz and one by anthropologist Roderick Sprague--are reproduced as appendices. The two by Krantz are from Cryptozoology and Northwest Anthropological Research Notes and deal with reconstructing Gigantopithecus from skeletal material and assigning bigfoot to that genus, respectively. Sprague's piece is an editorial from Northwest Anthropological Research Notes on John Green and various aspects of bigfoot research.

If you already own the original edition of this book, it is still worthwhile to purchase for the new afterword, especially if you are interested in sasquatch research. If you don't own the book, it is well-worth buying.

Dinosaurs of Australia and New Zealand, and other Animals of the Mesozoic Era
by John A. Long
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1998, 188 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-674-20767-X. $39.95 (US). price: $27.97.

The atmosphere surrounding dinosaur paleontology in Australia and New Zealand today is not unlike that fostered in the western United States in the last century. In this opulently illustrated volume, Aussie paleontologist John Long provides a look at the ancient vertebrates of Australia and New Zealand, many of which have been discovered only recently.

The first part of the book, called "The Study and Discovery of Dinosaurs", gives an excellent background to the basics of paleontology and geology, as well as a history of Australian paleontology and up-to-date details about dinosaur phylogeny and evolution.

There are three subsequent sections in the book, each examining vertebrate life in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous, respectively. Each section is arranged taxonomically, with in-depth entries for all taxonomic designations down to the species level of fossil vertebrates of Australia and New Zealand. This format makes Long's book an extremely useful reference.

One of the things I like best about this book is that it's not just about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were awesome creatures, but many other Mesozoic animals were equally fascinating. Long also discusses amphibians, reptiles (including the fantastic marine reptiles), pterosaurs, birds, and mammals of the Mesozoic.

Long is an excellent writer, and the text is readable and interesting. Complimenting his prose are numerous photos, paintings and other illustrations which add immensely to the value of this book. Some illustrations are of fossilized remains, others of skeletal reconstructions, and still others are beautiful life portraits, showing how the extinct animals may have looked when alive.

A glossary and index are provided; both are useful additions to the book. In-text references are present, and there is an excellent bibliography.

Well-written, informative and well-illustrated, Dinosaurs of Australia and New Zealand compiles and conveys a large body of information about the fascinating animals of the Australian Mesozoic.

The Great New England Sea Serpent
by June P. O'Neill
Down East Books, Camden, Maine, 1999, 256 pp., softcover, ISBN 0-89272-461-7. $15.95 (US). price: $12.96.

Sightings of sea-serpents have long been reported from the Gulf of Maine, off the coast of New England. A considerable wealth of information exists on the topic, which June O'Neill has set out to tackle. She has produced a readable, entertaining and informative book.

The body of the book is comprised of eight chapters, each dealing with sea-serpent reports from different time periods and arranged in chronological order, from 1638 to 1997. The majority of the reports in the book are from New England, though some from other areas, such as the famous Deadalus and Valhalla sightings, are also discussed.

Though O'Neill's coverage of New England sea-serpent sightings is not entirely comprehensive (there are a few reports found in Heuvelmans' classic In the Wake of the Sea-Serpent that she does not include), it is still excellent and a number of reports never before discussed in the literature are included. O'Neill leaves testimonials and newspaper reports relatively intact, to avoid bias and to tell the story as accurately as possible. Rather than passing judgment on each sighting, O'Neill presents each sighting as is and lets readers formulate their own conclusions.

Interestingly, no sightings are listed between 1962 and 1997, which leads O'Neill to speculate about the possible extinction of the New England sea-serpent in recent years, if it ever existed. Such speculations are entertained in an interesting final chapter, in which the author also examines various popular sea-serpent identities, including plesiosaurs and zeuglodons. She does not make a conclusion about the identity of alleged sea-serpents, instead presenting the history and arguments of each identity for the reader's own judgment. It is clear, however, that O'Neill believes that there is something to the many sightings of unusual creatures reported off New England over the last 300 years.

In the final chapter, O'Neill also speculates about the natural history of the New England sea-serpent. Although she is careful to state that her musings are purely conjectural, she occasionally becomes too explicit for my liking, such as when she suggests that sightings of alleged sea-serpents in the company of pilot whales or dolphins "could indicate a symbiotic relationship of some kind" (p. 232). Such conjecture is relatively harmless, however, and fun to read.

I am impressed with the quality of research of O'Neill's book. In the introduction, she complains about the poor research and lackadaisical approach of some previous sea-serpent researchers, and says that she has endeavored to do much better. I think she has. The sea-serpent reports and the history behind the phenomena are presented accurately, in O'Neill's enjoyable prose. She has also done her homework in regards to the science and natural history found in her book. Most admirably, O'Neill had her manuscript read by palaeontologists Mike Everhart and Glen Kuban, to ensure the accuracy of her discussions of plesiosaurs, zeuglodons, mosasaurs and other extinct sea-serpent candidates. Kuban, in particular, gave insight on the Zuiyo-maru carcass, a basking shark carcass that is still suggested by some to be a plesiosaur. Few cryptozoologists have professionals read their manuscripts; if they did, I think many cryptozoological publications would become more accurate.

My only major complaint about the book is the lack of an index, but I have been told this was due to financial constraints. Instead, O'Neill has provided many nice illustrations, old and new, including photographs and original drawings. Also, an index of sorts is provided: the first appendix is a useful chronological listing of all the sightings in the book, and the page number where each sighting was discussed is given. The second appendix reproduces the questions that the Linnean Society gave to sea-serpent eyewitnesses during a rash of sightings in the 19th century. The book also includes a decent bibliography and notes are provided at the end of each chapter. There is no formal referencing system in the book, but most sources are included in the bibliography or could be found with the details provided in the text. Addresses for relevant web sites and publications are found at the end of the book.

The Great New England Sea Serpent is a great book, and a good example of how cryptozoological research should be done. Anyone interested in cryptozoology should have it on their bookshelves.

Tower of Babel: the Evidence Against the New Creationism
by Robert T. Pennock
MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1999, 429 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-262-16180-X. $35.00 (US). Also available: Softcover edition. $18.95. price: $15.16.

It is amazing that, even today, creationist claims--which range in their extremity but are based upon a general denial of Darwinian evolution--continue to be made, despite continuing confirmations of the theory of evolution, and sound refutations of creationist rhetoric. Creationism is alive and as virulent as ever, as shown by the recent Kansas school board decision to omit any mention of evolution from standard state educational tests and the high school teaching curriculum. Pennock's book, which is decidedly pro-evolution and systematically analyzes and falsifies creationist claims, is timely indeed.

One of the strengths of Tower of Babel is that it provides sound refutations of not only traditional "creation science" but of "new creationism". The latter, which espouses arguments of "intelligent design" and attacks the naturalistic underpinnings of science, is much more complex and sophisticated than the old "creation science". The new creationists feel compelled to discredit evolution because they feel it conflicts with their ideas of morality and denies that there is a purpose in life. Suddenly, the creation-evolution debate is very philosophical and harder to debate than old claims, such as "the Earth is 6000 years old because the Bible says so." Unfortunately for creationists, Pennock reliably and accurately shows that creationism is still very wrong.

He first discusses the creationists' epistemological attacks against evolution, and the evidence for evolution. It is not hard for a rational person to realize which side has the weightier support. Pennock then diverts from standard biological evolution to discuss linguistic evolution, which has a theoretical base that is similar in content and form to that of biological evolution. Like biological evolution, linguistic evolution is at odds with a literal interpretation of the Bible because it says that God created every language on Earth at one time as a punishment for the Tower of Babel. Pennock's discussion of linguistic evolution in regards to creationist claims is the first I have seen and is interesting.

The rest of the book deals with philosophical arguments in the creation-science debates. Much of this concerns the work of Philip Johnston, a Berkeley law professor, and one of the more articulate creationists. Pennock is a professor of philosophy and thus well able to argue Johnston's points. He defends the naturalistic approach to science and expounds upon the relationships between science, religion and morality. The final chapter discusses why creationism should not be taught in school, and ends with an argument to keep private religious belief separate from public scientific knowledge. Extensive references, as well as an excellent bibliography and index are provided.

Pennock's book is important for cryptozoologists because cryptozoology is sometimes used as evidence for creationist claims. Some creationists believe (wrongly) that stories of living dinosaurs and pterosaurs, for example, validate creationism and prove evolution is wrong. They may, therefore, be less critical of such hypotheses, which, incidentally, are not well supported.

It is important for cryptozoologists to understand what creationism is about, and why, to be blunt, it is wrong. Some cryptozoologists--even those who are evolutionists--are too accommodating with creationism, and are not willing to dispute it. They also do not seem to mind that some aspects of cryptozoology are being falsely used as creationist evidence. At the same time, these evolutionist cryptozoologists are trying to gain respect for cryptozoology from mainstream scientists. I find this ironic. Evolutionary theory is the backbone of biology. If cryptozoology wants to attempt to be scientific or at least be respected by science, it cannot be associated with a pseudoscience like creationism. Pennock's book will equip the cryptozoologist with the knowledge he or she needs to correctly deal with creationist claims relating to cryptozoology, including those from creationist cryptozoologists and from non-cryptozoologists who think that cryptozoology supports creationism.

by F. Harvey Pough, Robin M. Andrews, John E. Cadle, Martha L. Crump, Alan H. Savitzky, Kentwood D. Wells (eds.)
Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 1998, 577 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-13-850876-3. $80.00.

Most people don't realize the diversity of reptiles and amphibians; the "fabulous fur-balls" (to use Robert Bakker's phrase) are simply much more popular than "slimy", slow-moving frogs and snakes. Today, there are about 6 000 reptile species and 4 600 amphibians. On the other hand, there are 4 000 and 9 000 extant species of mammals and birds, respectively. This book is a fascinating, extremely informative and well-illustrated look at the maligned reptiles and amphibians.

In their preface, the editors write that their book is meant not as a reference book but as a textbook. They assume the reader has the background given by a course in vertebrate zoology, though they add that they have tried to explain technical jargon in many cases, so as not to confuse and distract the reader. Despite the editors' assertions, I think the book is extremely useful as an accurate, information-rich reference book, serving as much more than just a university textbook. Coverage of topics is highly comprehensive, not being just another exposé on reptile and amphibian anatomy and physiology. These topics are included with excellent detail, but the editors have also succeeded in examining reptiles and amphibians in an evolutionary and ecological light. There are excellent chapters on paleontology and evolution, as well as feeding and reproductive biology, many aspects of ecology and behaviour etc. Classification and distribution of reptiles and amphibians is covered in two fabulous chapters, with excellent coverage down to families, and including lists of genera and numbers of species.) All topics are highly detailed and well explained, and references are supplied throughout. An exhaustive, very useful bibliography is included at the end of the book.

Many black and white illustrations (photos, line drawings, etc.) nicely supplement explanations and discussions in the text. The overall design and layout is attractive. Two well done indices are provided: one of authors and one of subjects.

Herpetology is a wonderful, extremely useful addition to the herpetological literature, and is, in my mind, the best, most up-to-date reference to this fascinating topic available. I greatly recommend it to all.

Biology of Marine Mammals
by John E. Reynolds and Sentiel A. Rommel
Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1999, 600 pp., hardcover, ISBN 1-560-98375-2. $ 75.00 (US).

The title of Reynolds and Rommel's edited volume may be unimaginative, but it precisely describes what you will find inside--600 pages of up-to-date information on marine mammal biology. Polar bears, sea otters, sirenians, pinnipeds, and cetaceans are all covered in the book, but the emphasis is upon pinnipeds and, especially, cetaceans.

Each chapter is written by different specialists, and they cover all the topics one would expect in a scholarly volume of this sort: systematics, functional morphology, physiology, sensory systems, energetics, reproduction, communication and cognition, behaviour, distribution, population and feeding ecology, and environmental concerns. I was disappointed, however, that there were no chapters on evolutionary biology or palaeontology of marine mammals, interesting subjects upon which much has been published recently.

What has been included is excellent, though. Biology of Marine Mammals provides the most up to date review of marine mammal biology available and serves as a valuable reference. The book is written for students and professionals, so the average layperson may have difficulty in parts. The chapters on physiology, reproduction and other aspects of straight-up biology may prove the most intimidating. However, there are chapters that are of more general interest, such as Peter Tyack's survey of communication and cognition (discussing, for example, the intelligence of cetaceans), and Randall Wells et al.'s review of marine mammal behaviour. Even the more jargon-rich chapters contain much information that is wonderfully interesting to all, such as the adaptations marine mammals possess to deal with physiological problems associated with diving to depth.

Each chapter is accompanied by an extensive list of references. An excellent index is present. There are many illustrations; though most are graphs and diagrams, there a number of good black and white photographs and line drawings.

The average layperson may find Reynolds and Rommel's Biology of Marine Mammals to be too technical for their liking, but will still find some of the material interesting. On the other hand, if you have an interest in marine mammals that goes beyond natural history, the book is a must-have.

Birds of Africa: From Seabirds to Seed-Eaters
by Chris Stuart & Tilde Stuart
MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2000, 184 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-262-19430-9. $29.95 (US). price: $22.46

There are a great number of bird species in Africa; a species-by-species account would take hundreds of pages. Although such volumes do exist, they are often very expensive. In this book, husband-and-wife naturalists Chris & Tilde Stuart have presented a beautifully illustrated introduction to Africa's bird diversity which is both affordable and informative. The book is neither a field guide nor an academic tome. The authors have divided the book into several chapters, each one on a group of birds that share general characteristics--penguins and terns are in a chapter on "Birds of the Oceans", and hawks and owls are in a chapter called "Raptors of the Day and Night." One chapter title I particularly liked is "LBJs", or "little brown jobs", a nickname used by birders for "those generally small, nondescript and difficult to identify birds that may send a shiver down the spine of even the hardened birdwatcher" (p. 121).

Within each chapter, the birds are subdivided into families, which adds a nice systematic touch to the book. The text includes details on natural history and biology as well as entertaining anecdotes. I would like to have seen more biological detail and discussion of more species, but as previously mentioned, the book is intended as an introduction to the birds of Africa, not as an in-depth treatment. Because of this, the text is not referenced, and a list of suggested reading is provided rather than a bibliography. The lack of references may have been necessary to include the excellent systematic listing of every African bird species at the end of the book. A good index is also provided. Although the text is useful, perhaps the best part of the book is the spectacular colour photographs that adorn every page. The Stuarts are renowned wildlife photographers, and their talent shines through. In what it sets out to accomplish, Birds of Africa succeeds admirably.

Wildlife of Gondwana: Dinosaurs and other Vertebrates from the Ancient Supercontinent
by Pat Vickers Rich and Tom Hewitt Rich
Indiana University Press, 1999, 276 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0253336430.
$50.00 (US). price: $44.96.

A quick glance at Wildlife of Gondwana may give the impression that it is simply another big, beautiful coffee-table book. Granted, the book is big, and beautiful, but upon picking it up and opening its cover, the reader will find there is an enormous amount of fascinating text accompanying all the illustrations.

Wildlife of Gondwana is a revised and updated version of an earlier edition published in Australia in 1993. It is a comprehensive reference to the fossil vertebrates of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, and the continents it later split into: South America, southern Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctica. The authors, Pat Vickers-Rich and Tom Rich, are well-known Australian palaeontologists, and thus much of the book concentrates on material from Australia. The book is broken into four parts, each with dense, but readable, text supplemented by many illustrations. The first part provides a background for the book, discussing the geological history of Gondwana, the origins and evolution of life, and various other interesting topics. Part two highlights the science of palaeontology and its practitioners, including the history of palaeontology in Australia, methods palaeontologists use to uncover bones and find out about ancient worlds, and how fossils form and what they can tell us. These first two parts are of general interest and provide good discussions of important topics such as the origin of life, extinction, radiometric dating, and continental drift.

The meat of the book comprises part three, which is a magnificent chronological tour of the vertebrate history of Gondwana and, more specifically, Australia. Vickers-Rich and Rich start in the Ordovician, when the first vertebrates appeared in Gondwana, and move through the age of fishes, the conquering of the land, dinosaurs, the rise of mammals, and finish with extant Australian vertebrates. Part four compares the fossil record of Gondwana in each geological period to that from other geographical locations. An afterword brings the reader up to date on new discoveries. A glossary, bibliography, and index--all excellent--are provided. A useful "Systematic, Geographic and Geological Index" of all fossil families and genera from Australasia is also present.

All in all, reading through Wildlife of Gondwana gives one a virtual tour of the history of life on Earth, with emphasis on Gondwana vertebrates. It is at once exhilarating and belittling to realize that our history on Earth is so insignificant compared to the millions of years of life, death and evolution that preceded us.

Though the text is well-written, the book's illustrations, including 450 photographs, and many paintings, graphs, and maps, fill most of the pages. This is not a bad thing! Most of the book's illustrations are gorgeous colour photographs of original and reconstructed fossils, taken by Francesco Coffa and Steven Morton. The original fossils are often well-preserved and astounding in their detail. Photographs of various modern day fossil localities, habitats, and species are also present, as well as maps and graphs. Several dramatic colour paintings and black and white drawings by Peter Trusler round out the impressive illustrations of Wildlife of Gondwana. Detailed captions supplement each illustration, including information such as where the fossil was found, what it is, how old it is, its size, and other interesting tidbits. I found it fascinating to simply browse through the book, examining the photographs and reading the captions.

There are several parts of the book that have some cryptozoological relevance. Several photos of the impressive jaws of Thylacoleo, a large, extinct, predatory marsupial that has been implicated in modern day sightings of the "Queensland tiger", are present. Data on Thylacoleo are also included. The Tasmanian tiger or thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) features similar coverage; especially notable are a full-page photo of a thylacine and a smaller one of an immature thylacine pup. Giant ground sloths are discussed, including a photograph of mummified skin with long red hair from South America. Discussion of other Pleistocene megafauna, such as the wallaby-like Diprotodon and the giant monitor Megalania, will be interesting to cryptozoologists, since some have suggested that these animals may still exist. Vickers-Rich and Rich even mention that there is "tantalizing evidence that some of the megafaunal elements such as Diprotodon survived until as recently as 6000 years ago." Unfortunately, no details are given.

Wildlife of Gondwana is a beautiful and informative survey of the fossil record and evolutionary and geological history of Gondwana and the continents it spawned. It is an essential purchase for anyone interested in palaeontology, and has much to offer for cryptozoologists.

The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Animals
by Philip Whitfield (General Consultant)
Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 1998, 616 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-684-85237-3. $50.00. price: $35.00.

It is quite sobering to think that this massive 600 page book includes entries for only about 2000 vertebrate species--a mere 4% of the world total of 45 000. However, The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Animals is an admirable effort to catalogue as many of these species as can be included in an affordable, accessible book.

The book is arranged taxonomically, with the five major sections covering mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes. Within these sections, information on all families is included, with specific accounts on representative species. (An unfortunate but understandable exception to this is the fishes section--there are so many fish families that coverage was limited to orders, and important families.) Species and family accounts are concise, yet informative, including facts on size, breeding habits, behaviour, feeding biology, conservation status, distribution and more. The text is written by scientists, and is highly accurate. (One error I noticed was the mention that "more than 45,000 or so known species of vertebrate animals are fishes"--in fact there are 45 000 species of vertebrates, of which about 24 000 are fishes.) I would have liked to have seen more detail in the text, but because of the massive scope of this book, the level of information included is understandable. As it stands, the text is accurate, useful, well-written and accessible.

Each species is illustrated with colour paintings. The illustrations are excellent and detailed, and add greatly to the beautiful layout and design of the book.

The magnificent diversity of vertebrate life deserves a beautifully illustrated, informative and excellent reference; considering the great extent of such a task, The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of Animals achieves this goal rather well.

In Search of Giants
by Thomas Steenburg
Hancock House, 2000, paperback, ISBN 0-888-39446-2. $16.95 (US).

For over 20 years Thomas Steenburg has been researching sasquatch reports from western Canada. This book is his third and presents an update on his research. It consists mostly of reports and interviews that Steenburg has collected, which are interesting to read and for which he always provides good commentary. A long chapter on sasquatch sightings in Alberta is included, where Steenburg has done pioneering research. After reviewing the many reports he has collected, Steenburg sums everything up by comparing the various details of each sighting (e.g. time of day, time of year, height and hair colour of the described animal) in two chapters called "British Columbia Statistics" and "Alberta Statistics". There is also a good chapter on "Mistaken Identity and other Errors" in which Steenburg shows some of the ways eyewitnesses can be fooled into thinking they have stumbled across sasquatch evidence.

There are no references or index, but this is not highly problematic as the book is largely comprised of Steenburg's own research and specific cases can generally be found easily. I really liked the large number of black-and-white photos that illustrate the book; perusing the photos and reading the captions is informative and entertaining. Some sketches drawn by eyewitnesses are also provided.

Steenburg's writing style is at times a bit rough, but is still very readable and gives an enjoyable personal feel to the book. One obtains a genuine sense of Steenburg's dedication and enthusiasm for his subject, and readers will get a good idea of the sometimes complex process of investigating cryptozoological reports in the field.

I particularly enjoyed Steenburg's serious approach, with little credulity and a constant rejection of the lunatic fringe (a short chapter on this topic is entertaining, with several amusing anecdotes). There is obviously a reliance on eyewitness testimony in the book, but Steenburg consistently notes this and explains the problems associated with using this kind of evidence to support the existence of the sasquatch. He also is not afraid to say that he is not convinced by certain reports and that some of them don't tell us anything substantial.

Steenburg provides a well thought-out conclusion to his book, in which he recognizes science's need of a body to prove the existence of the sasquatch. He concedes that eyewitness evidence may be circumstantial, but adds that it still points to a mystery that is worth further investigation. This sort of clear-headed approach to the sasquatch question is admirable and resonates through Steenburg's book, which is worth reading.

Encyclopedia of the Sea
by Richard Ellis
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000, 380 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-375-40374-4. $35.00 (US). price: $28.00.

The sea is a large place, home to an almost unfathomable number of organisms, including ubiquitous fishes, sharks, and whales, as well as a myriad of equally amazing invertebrates and microorganisms. Beneath the sea's surface lie spectacular geological features, including enormous mountains (some of which emerge as islands), abyssal mudplains that extend uninterrupted for thousands of kilometres, and canyons and trenches that drop precipitously into the depths. The enormous volume of water covering this undersea landscape has been part of human history for thousands of years, involving wars, exploration, ships, pollution, and fishing. A Brittanica-sized encyclopedia could be written to cover all of these aspects of the world's oceans, but Richard Ellis, who as a literary and artistic veteran of marine natural history is well equipped to tackle such a project, presents a much more concise yet still extremely comprehensive and useful Encyclopedia of the Sea.

In his introduction, Ellis apologizes for having to omit many possible entries, but his rationale of selectivity is realistic for the scope of the book--he includes many of the big animals and then includes unusual or representative examples of lesser known animal groups. Thus, all the whales and dolphins and sea turtles are included, along with many sharks and cephalopods, and a large number of fishes (mainly those that have economic importantance, are commonly encountered by people, or are unusual). Invertebrates are treated in the same way, with entries for certain important or unusual species (e.g. lobster) as well as entries for larger taxonomic groupings such as crustaceans, arrowworms, and jellyfish. Algae and microgranisms are typically considered at a phylum level, with occassional more specific entries such as "kelp".

The physical aspects of the ocean, including hurricanes, tsunamis, tides, and turbidity currents, are also covered, as are geographical locations such as various islands, important nautical landmarks, bays, underwater features such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and of course the different oceans and seas. Nautical topics are discussed, including entries on illustrious ships, many of which met unfortunate ends. Finally, there are numerous entries on various battles and famous seafaring people, including early explorers like Magellan as well as more recent explorers and scientists such as Robert Ballard and Eugenie Clark. There are several cryptozoological entries, including cryptozoology, the Loch Ness monster, coelacanth, Cadborosaurus, Steller's sea monkey, megalodon, sea serpent, and giant squid. There's not much here that most who are keenly interested in cryptozoology won't know already, but the entries are useful for quick reference.

The entries vary in length, but there are usually four or five per page; their length is generally sufficient, with a considerable amount of information packed into each. Ellis's prose is, as usual, excellent. The book is attractively designed and, as would be expected, the text is peppered with small but nice illustrations of sea life by Ellis (some old, some new). A section of colour plates of some of Ellis's spectacular paintings is included. No bibliography is present, but, as Ellis points out in the introduction, an encyclopedia doesn't necessarily need one and it would have cluttered the book.

In all, it is phenomenal how many entries Ellis has included in this ambitious book. It is probable that any entry on the sea that most anyone could think of is in here, as well as many more that will delight and inform. Of course, there are bound to be some entries that didn't make it. I was disappointed that Charles Darwin did not receive an entry--he, of course, proposed the theory of natural selection, went on a five year sea voyage around the world (there is an entry on the Beagle) and wrote an entire book on the formation of coral reefs (Darwin's general theory on coral reef formation remains supported today). I was also surprised that nematodes did not make the cut, as these little unsegmented worms are abundant and diverse throughout the oceans, on land, and inside the fishes, sharks, and whales that Ellis did include! For those inclusions that were not present, however, there are many equally important entries in this book. Richard Ellis's Encyclopedia of the Sea is a remarkable achievement and a wonderful reference.

Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
by George Eberhart
ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara, 2002, 2 vols., xvii + 722 pp., hardcover, ISBN 1-57607-283-5. $185.00 (US). price: $185.00.

George Eberhart is a librarian known for his encyclopedic bibliographies on unusual phenomena. In this large two volume set, he focuses on cryptozoology in an ambitious effort to collate information on every cryptid and a number of mythical creatures (e.g., griffin, roc, dragon) that have been said to represent unknown and known animals.

There are over 1000 entries alphabetically organized, from "Abnauayu", a supposed hominid from west Asia, to "Ziz", a mythical giant bird of the Middle East. The relative obscurity of these two cryptids is representative of the book, which contains entries on many beasts that many cryptozoologists will know little about. Most of the cryptids are listed by their local name, making Mysterious Creatures an interesting reference to the animal folklore of indigenous peoples around the world. There are also entries on the better-known cryptids such as Nessie, bigfoot, and the gigantic octopus. Following the name of each cryptid is a brief sentence that describes what kind of cryptid it is and where it is found. Each entry is then broken into subsections including etymology, variant names, physical description, behaviour, tracks, habitat, distribution, significant sightings, a list of possible explanations, and a usually comprehensive list of references (admirably, often the original sources). Although this format allows quick reference and provides a good summary of each cryptid, it could be argued that it sometimes causes distortion of the actual nature of the supposed animal. For example, folkloric animals typically have varied attributes, some of which sound zoological and some of which do not; in Eberhart's descriptions, there is a tendency to focus on the animal-like characteristics.

Eberhart generally does a good job at including skeptical conclusions about cryptids in his list of possible explanations, which is admirable because many cryptozoologists ignore or give short shrift to such ideas. He also includes many of the credulous explanations for cryptids that certain cryptozoologists have proposed. These often fall into the category of prehistoric survivals, where cryptozoologists seem to simply browse palaeontology books and pick out an extinct animal whose appearance more or less matches the description of a cryptid. The inclusion of such explanations causes at least two problems: any given explanation may be the brainchild of a single cryptozoologist and might in fact be disputed by the majority of cryptozoologists, and these explanations come off as being no less plausible than other explanations that are actually much more likely, even when this is certainly not the case. These problems are not Eberhart's fault, however--it is the price to pay for an exhaustive presentation of an often overzealous field. Mysterious Creatures covers the best and worst of cryptozoology and in doing so, Eberhart performs a remarkable service to researchers: his book makes it easy to quickly look up reliably researched information on any cryptid--including the credulous explanations that plague cryptozoology--without having to paw through countless files and books.

There are several supplementary sections of varying usefulness at the beginning and the end of the book. A preface by chemist Henry Bauer discusses why he thinks cryptozoology is important and an introduction by Loren Coleman continues in the same vein, discussing what cryptozoologists try to do and how they try to do it. Eberhart provides a guide to the use of the book, and also outlines what a cryptid is and how cryptozoologists chase them. A brief definition of the field with etymological notes and Jack Rabbit's informative article "Native and Western eyewitness testimony in cryptozoology" (reproduced from The Cryptozoology Review vol. 4 no. 1) are also found in volume 1. At the end of volume 2, there is a nice annotated and roughly taxonomic list of "Animals discovered since 1900", as well as a useful referenced and annotated list of all lake and river monsters worldwide, organized geographically.

There are over 80 illustrations, many of which have been reproduced from antiquarian-type works. Several newer, fanciful paintings and drawings of cryptids by Bill Rebsamen and others as well as a number of classic and less famous photographs of cryptids are also present. A few of the cryptid illustrations are too cartoonish for my liking and should have been omitted (e.g. "Tahoe Tessie" on p. 533). Two excellent indexes of geographical locations and cryptids allow quick reference.

Eberhart's comprehensive and informative treatment of cryptids makes Mysterious Creatures an invaluable reference. It is of great use and enjoyment to anybody interested in cryptozoology, but due to its hefty price it may be restricted to the shelves of serious cryptozoological researchers. For them, however, Mysterious Creatures is essential.

Private Life of Sharks
by Michael Bright
Stackpole, 2000, 320 pp., paperback, ISBN 0-811-72875-7. $17.05 (US). price: $14.36. Hardcover ($31.95).

In The Private Life of Sharks Michael Bright presents much interesting material on recent shark research that many readers will not be familiar with. This makes predictable chapters dealing with anatomy and physiology, feeding, reproduction, shark attacks, and the great white shark, interesting to read. The other three chapters offer a refreshing change from typical shark book fare, discussing shark migrations, shark schooling, and deep-sea sharks. A chapter-by-chapter bibliography suggests further reading.

Following a good discussion about recent research on Carcharocles megalodon, including the debate on how closely related it is to the great white shark, Bright dabbles in the idea that the beast survives today. He is too cautious in criticizing the idea that C. megalodon survives. Bright discusses the oft-reproduced 1918 Port Stephens fishermen's report, and mentions a supposedly true story from the Weekly World News about a Soviet submarine that was attacked by a giant shark. Bright expresses skepticism of the latter story, but it should not have been included because American tabloids are notorious for their make-believe tales. Bright also brings up a report of a cleanly severed whale shark tail with many teeth marks in it that washed up on a beach on the Red Sea. Bright admits that whale sharks are often struck by boat propellers but states rhetorically "[w]hether [the bites] were made before or after the big cut cannot be ascertained." Clearly, the discovery of a severed whale shark tail does not imply that C. megalodon survives and probably in fact is the result of a boat collision and subsequent scavenging by sharks. Ignoring these speculative bits, Bright's book is good reading for anyone wanting an introduction to shark biology and recent advances in the field.

Quest for the African Dinosaurs
by Louis Jacobs
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, 317 pp., softcover, ISBN 0-801-86481-X. $18.95 (US). price: $13.27.

Palaentologist Louis Jacobs has written a fascinating account of his dinosaur digs in Africa. Originally published in 1993 and now in paperback with a new introduction, Quest for the African Dinosaurs is both a travel journal and a work of popular science, emparting a true feel for scientific field work. It is useful because few books have examined dinosaur palaeontology in Africa. Jacobs also covers other Mesozoic fauna such as crocodiles, early mammals, and pterodactyls, and there is much information on African natural and cultural history. Of particular interest to the cryptozoologist is a chapter entitled "A Living Dinosaur?", but those who favour a dinosaur identity for the mokele-mbembe will be disappointed. Jacobs criticizes the idea of living dinosaurs and points out the fallacy of using the coelacanth's modern existence as an analogy for dinosaur survival. He also dismisses the notion that the rain forests of central Africa have remained unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. This chapter is a must-read for those who continue to promulgate the idea of living non-avian dinosaurs.

Unexplained Phenomena: a Rough Guide Special
by Bob Rickard and John Michell
Rough Guides, 2000, 390 pp., softcover, ISBN 1-858-28589-5. $19.95 (US). price: $13.97.

This book is not a travel guide but rather an amalgamation of Bob Rickard and John Michell's out-of-print fortean classics Phenomena (1978) and Living Wonders (1982). Some content has beeen updated. Most of the book deals with non-cryptozoological anomalies such as UFOs, ghosts, rains of fishes and frogs, crop circles, unusual human abilities, and hysterias. Cryptozoology is covered in a chapter entitled "Monsters" which discusses lake monsters, sea serpents, globsters and other supposed sea serpent carcasses, man-eating trees, hairy hominids, wild people, black dogs, and even werewolves. Another chapter covers strange animal behaviour, including a section on abductions of humans and livestock by birds of prey. The authors tend not to form conclusions, leaving that to the reader. Because the cryptozoological content provides useful summaries and contains some information that is hard to find elsewhere, I recommend this book, especially for those with an interest in strange phenomena as a whole.

by Mike Dash
Dell Publishing Co., 2000, 628 pp., paperback, ISBN 0-440-23656-8. $6.99 (US). price: $6.99. Hardcover: $27.95.

In this book, Mike Dash, former publisher of Fortean Times, delves into wide-ranging fortean topics such as spontaneous human combustion, UFOs, conspiracies, mysterious disappearances, frog falls, ball lightning, and cryptozoology. These are weird, fascinating topics that are too often distorted and robbed of any sense by authors with poor writing, thinking and research skills. Dash provides the antithesis: his book is entertaining, well-written, and well-researched. I appreciate his level-headed and open-mindedly skeptical approach. A chapter on cryptozoology deals with British mystery cats, the mapinguary, the sasquatch, mokele-mbembe, giant snakes, sea serpents, the Loch Ness monster, and other topics. Dash does not just rehash old stories but adds thoughtful commentary on the problems with cryptozoological evidence and practice. Cryptozoology creeps into other discussions in the book, such as an interesting chapter on the nature of fortean evidence. Aside from the readable and informative text, two inserts of black and white photos are included. Extensive notes for all chapters are provided, including references. This book is well worth a read.

China's Major Mysteries: Paranormal Phenomena and the Unexplained in the People's Republic
by Paul Dong
China Books & Periodicals, 2000, 227 pp., paperback, ISBN 0-835-12676-5. $16.95 (US). price: $16.95.

Most of this book, which was originally published in 1984 and is now reprinted with a short addendum, concerns paranormal topics such as UFOs, psychics, and qi gong (a Chinese breathing technique that supposedly develops paranormal abilities). These are treated with less skepticism than I feel is warranted. Of more interest are three chapters (comprising 31 pages) on the wildman, China's equivalent of the sasquatch. The first chapter recounts a number of eyewitness encounters with the wildman, including three cases from the late 1970s. The second chapter outlines the searches led by Chinese scientists for the wildman. Probably the best of the three chapters is one on Zhou Guoxing, an anthropologist at the Beijing Natural History Museum who is well known for his scientific approach to the wildman phenomenon. This chapter includes an interesting interview with Zhou. Regrettably, the book contains no references.

The Lost World of the Moa: Prehistoric Life of New Zealand
by Trevor H. Worthy and Richard N. Holdaway
Indiana University Press, 2002, 760 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-253-34034-9. $89.95 (US). price: $89.95.

This thick, well-illustrated book is an extensive review and synthesis on the evolution and biology of the Quaternary fauna of New Zealand. One chapter is devoted to reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, including criticisms of the supposed New Zealand origin of the giant gecko (Hoplodactylus delcourti) and an interesting if short section on the tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus). The rest of the book concerns the spectacular variety of New Zealand's extinct birds. Three chapters on the moa discuss its paleontology, biology, and history of fossil discoveries. This coverage represents the single best review of what is known about moa. Other chapters discuss kiwi, waterbirds, rails, parrots, oceanic birds, and my favourite, the giant moa-hunting Haast's eagle (Harpagornis moorei). The section on Haast's eagle also includes a fascinating discussion on the functional morphology that allows raptors to capture large prey. Introductory material on New Zealand's paleontology and biogeography is provided. The final chapter deals with the question of how and why much of the New Zealand avifauna went extinct. The coverage of these topics is remarkably thorough and well-referenced. The text is academic but readable. A fabulous index allows quick reference.

The presence of many photographs and illustrations adds greatly to the value of the book. Numerous classic lithographs are included, and many of the illustrations are rare or previously unpublished. All of the illustrations are well-reproduced, in large size. Tables and figures of scientific data, reproduced from previous papers or newly compiled, will be useful for reference purposes. For serious researchers, the appendices include a referenced list of the Holocene New Zealand avifauna, a key to the major limb bones of moa, and distribution maps of a selection of species on South Island.

Modern-day survival of moa, a popular cryptozoological topic, is only mentioned in passing. As the authors discuss, all available scientific evidence strongly suggests that moa went extinct at least 300-400 years ago. There are interesting discussions of Maori stories about interactions with moa peppered throughout the text. Possible late survival of Haast's eagle (Harpagornis moorei) is covered briefly, including interactions with the first human settlers, who may have had to worry about predation by these large raptors.

But this is not a book about whether these birds have survived--it is a remarkable work on how they lived and why they are no longer alive. For anyone interested in moa and other New Zealand avifauna extinct or extant, this book is essential.

The Kraken and the Colossal Octopus
by Bernard Heuvelmans
Kegan Paul Ltd., 2003, 332 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-710-30870-1. $144.50 (US). price: $144.50.

Although Bernard Heuvelmans, the late father of cryptozoology, wrote several books on cryptids, only his classics On the Track of Unknown Animals (1955) and In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents (1965) have been translated into English and other languages. The translation of the latter book contains a chapter entitled "The Kraken and the Giant Squid", a heavily abridged version of Heuvelmans' book Le Kraken et le Poulpe Colossal (1958). Kegan Paul now presents us with an English translation of this work in its entirety (with some revisions by the author as late as 1994), as part of an on-going but oft-delayed plan to publish all of Heuvelmans' books in English for the first time.

The first chapter provides a general introduction to the sea's ability to hide large unknown creatures and briefly discusses how octopuses and squid became first known to humans. Heuvelmans then discusses aggressive behaviour of octopuses, including fictionalized tales as well as first-hand accounts of attacks on humans, most of which were unsurprisingly instigated by the human participant. A short chapter on cephalopod taxonomy is dated but is still interesting for its historical approach. With introductory material covered, Heuvelmans launches into the history of the kraken and the giant squid, including chapters on the kraken in antiquity and medieval times, the growing attention given to the kraken by scientists, the eventual description of the giant squid in the 19th century, and the specimens subsequently obtained in Newfoundland and elsewhere. An entire chapter is devoted to Pierre Denys de Montfort, a French naturalist who argued for the existence of the giant squid before physical evidence was available. The rest of the book is more cryptozoological, discussing the possibility of giant giant squid, supposed sightings of healthy Architeuthis, and the alleged giant octopuses of St. Augustine, Florida, and elsewhere. Heuvelmans' characteristic personal style is evident throughout the book, and there is much interesting hard-to-find material that testifies to Heuvelmans' extraordinary research abilities. An extensive bibliography is provided.

There is an eclectic and interesting mix of almost 150 illustrations of cephalopods, other animals, historical figures, and real and mythical encounters between man and cephalopod. Unfortunately, overall they are rather poorly reproduced; the photographs have low resolution. A bigger problem with the book is the lack of an index; surely with the book's high price Kegan Paul could have hired someone to make one. Despite the poorly reproduced illustrations and lack of an index, this long-awaited translation of a cryptozoology classic is a must-buy.

Reviews of the following books will be posted soon. You can still purchase them by clicking on the title.


Meet the Sasquatch
by Chris Murphy with John Green and Thomas Steenburg
Hancock House, 2004, 239 pp., softcover, ISBN 0-888-39573-6. $29.95 (US). price: $29.95
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The Eighth Continent
by Peter Tyson
Avon Books, 2000, 368 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-380-97577-7. $27.50 (US). price: $22.00.






An Instinct for Dragons
by David E. Jones
Routledge, New York, 2000, 208 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-415-92721-8. $24.95 (US).






Snakes: the Evolution of Mystery in Nature
by Harry W. Greene
University of California Press, Berkeley, 2000, 351 pp., softcover, ISBN 0-520-22487-6. $29.95 (US). price: $23.96.






My Quest for the Yeti
by Reinhold Messner
St. Martin's Press, New York, 2000, 192 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-312-20394-2. $23.95 (US). price: $16.76.





Dragons in the Dust: The Paleobiology of the Giant Monitor Lizard Megalania
by Ralph Molnar
Indiana University Press, 2004, 210 pp., hardcover, ISBN 0-253-34374-7. $35.00 (US). price: $24.50








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