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Re: Werler & Dixon's Texas Snakes


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Posted by Tom Lott on December 11, 2002 at 17:33:01:

In Reply to: Werler & Dixon's Texas Snakes posted by LittleLizard on December 11, 2002 at 15:48:12:

This work by two of Texas' greatest living herpetologists is already a classic. It is much more than just an identification manual; it's loaded with natural history information--much previously unpublished--that was new to me (and I've been herping 40+ years!).

The only (minor) complaint I have with it involves the maps. Their format is great, derived by Ralph Axtell from US Air Force navigation charts. Every dot one sees on a map represents a currently extant museum specimen that could be validated. Literature records that are not based upon specimens currently located in museums are excluded.

This is good conservative science but tends to produce range maps that are slightly misleading. For example: the range map of the Blacktailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus) on page 389. Comal and Hays counties are not even under the shaded presumed range of this species, perhaps leading the casual reader to infer that this species is absent from these counties (some mention is made in the text of decreasing abundance of this form on the eastern Edwards Plateau). However, the junior author (Dixon, 2000, Amphibians and Reptiles of Texas, 2nd Ed.), shows records for both counties. I use this example specifically because I have observed this species in both counties.

Another example involves the Texas Lined Snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum). Plate 167 shows a "Pale adult from Val Verde County." The range map on p. 323, however, does not show a single dot in Val Verde County (nor does Dixon, 2000, for that matter). Evidently, the snake in the photo was not yet deposited in a museum and the authors are being consistent in following their protocol.

These minor criticisms aside, it is still a great book and one that I refer to frequently. I do wish that Werler (a great herp photographer who shot many Mexican species for the first time) had included more of his own photographs. Their summary of Blindsnake (Leptotyphlops) behavior is the best I've seen in a popular work. I also would like to see similar treatment on the remainder of Texas' herps--we have enough field guides!

Tom Lott




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