Astonishing Animals: Extraordinary Creatures and the Fantastic Worlds They Inhabit
Tim Flannery, a well-known Australian mammalogist, and Peter Schouten, a distinguished wildlife artist, have selected ninety-seven of nature's strangest animals and created a brilliant gallery of oddities. Many of these animals are visually spectacular, such as the frog from Madagascar that resembles a large ripe tomato, or the male long-wattled umbrella bird from South America that sports deep-violet plumage and a feathered beard more than a foot long.
But some otherwise nondescript animals are profoundly weird in other ways. Consider the olm, a colorless, sightless salamander that lives in underground rivers in Slovenia. It seldom eats, seldom moves, and has no known predators; one olm survived twelve years inside a glass jar in a refrigerator. Alas, poor olm, you can never experience anything akin to the enlightenment or delight that this book delivers!
Olms and tomato frogs also make cameo appearances in the mammoth Encyclopedia of Animals, along with thousands of other creatures organized by genera and species, from hippopotamuses to jellyfish. Most two-page spreads feature dozens of color drawings of related animals in natural poses (similar to the layouts that appear in the Audubon Society field guides), along with maps of global distribution, detailed drawings of anatomy, and sidebars on behavior, vital statistics, and conservation status. Well organized, comprehensive, and easy to use, this book is one that every nature lover will want to keep on a convenient shelf.