Dragon Songs: Love and Adventure Among Crocodiles, Alligators, and Other Dinosaur Relations

Vladimir Dinets. Skyhorse/Arcade, $24.95 (318p) ISBN 978-1-61145-893-0
With his artist’s eye, scientist’s precision, and explorer’s free spirit, Dinets, a Russian immigrant and Louisiana State University professor, is no ordinary zoologist. Here, he leads readers on an intense and joyous global pursuit of the mating customs of crocodiles (as well as his own), chronicling the adventures in fieldwork that would inform his graduate thesis. Along the way, he notes how he prefers assistants “pathologically prone to risk-taking behavior,” and on several occasions persuaded bush pilots to let him fly their planes—sans license. Dinets is smuggled through Somalia along with “rap music tapes and cases of Coca Cola,” and avoids the bandits of Chambal, India (who live near a river filled with hundreds of singing “mugger” crocs); he offers opinions on the politics of science (“negative results are virtually impossible to publish”) and seeks out scientific art, like an ancient Chinese “magic bowl” that produces infrasounds—sounds at frequencies of less than 20 Hz, the low end of the normal human hearing range—as crocodiles do. Throughout, gators and crocs sing, slither, and dance, providing fascinating glimpses of the dinosaurs from which they evolved (the discovery that Siamese crocs feed their yearlings indicates even the earliest dinos may have had “complex parental care”). Dinets offers an exuberant, intelligent take on the adventure of science that has the power to inspire armies of starry-eyed, flack-jacketed Ph.D.’s. Photos & maps. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013
Release date: 11/01/2013
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