The American alligator is found only* in the US, and is widespread in Texas. It is found in both rivers, such as the Rio Grande and Sabine, and along the coast. And, it turns out that the preferred locations for many of the important activities in the day to day live of the American alligator overlap a great deal with humans.

Louise Hayes, biologist, and photographer Philippe Henry have produced, with TAMU Press, have produced Alligators of Texas, a highly accessible, well written, and richly illustrated monograph on these beasts.

LOUISE HAYES has been studying American alligators in Texas since 1985 at sites such as Brazos Bend State Park and the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area. PHILIPPE HENRY is a professional wildlife photographer based in St. Mathieu du Parc. His photographs have been published worldwide.

If you are into Alligators and their relatives, regardless of where you live, this book may be an important addition to your collection. If you live in Texas in any of the Alligator areas (near larger rivers, the coast, etc) then you need this book along side your bird guides and plant ID pocket volumes. Not that you need to know how to identify an Alligator, but rather, to learn all about them.

This is a very nice looking book.

*Originally, I wrote “only in the US” because the info that came with, and in, the book apparently says this, and there are other sources that say this as well. For example, one distribution map for Mexican relatives of the American Alligator shows no alligators anywhere near the Rio Grande. An interested reader, however, asked how the heck the Alligators stay on only one side of the Rio Grande and avoid Mexico.

It seems that these alligators actually do avoid the main body of the Rio Grande and are simply rare or non existent in Mexico, but at the same time, the ARE in the Rio Grande, but just rare. For example, a small population showed up in Fort Hancock in Hudspeth County in 2009. They must have been able to pass back and forth across the river.

So, it seems that this species of Alligator is an occasional but rare find in Mexico, and presumably not that common in the Rio Grande itself.

Anybody from the region have any local alligator information to add?


Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy by Mark P. Witton is a coffee-table size book rich in detail and lavishly illustrated. Witton is a pterosaur expert at the School of Earh and Environmental Sciences at the University of Portsmouth. He is famous for his illustrations and his work in popular media such as the film “Walking With Dinosaurs 3D.”

The first pterosaur fossil was found in the late 18th century in the Jurassic Solnhofen Limestones, in Germany, the same excellent preservational environment that would later yield Archaeopteryx. They person who first studied it thought the elongated finger bones that we now know supported a wing served as a flipper in an amphibious creature. Not long after, the famous paleontologist George Cuvier recognized the winged nature of the beast. Witton notes that at the time, and through a good part of the 19th century, it was possible to believe that many of the odd fossils being unearthed were of species that still existed but were unknown to science. This is because most of the fossils were aquatic, and who knew what mysterious forms lurked beneath the sea? But a very large flying thing like this first pterosaur was very unlikely to still exist, unseen by European and American investigators. It had to be something major that was truly extinct. So in a way the history of extinction (the study of it, that is) was significantly shaped by this find. By the early 20th century there had been enough publication and study of pterosaurs to give them a place in paleontology, but not a lot else happened until the 1970s, when a combination of factors, including advanced technology that allowed more detailed and sophisticated study of fossils, led to much more intensive study of pterosaur anatomy and behavior.

Pterosaurs are part of the large taxonomic group that includes the lizards, dinosaurs, and birds, but they branched off within that group prior to the rise of the latter two. So, they are not dinosaurs, but cousins of dinosaurs. You can call them flying lizards, but not flying dinosaurs.

Witton explores this interesting history in some detail, and then proceeds to explore various aspects of pterosaur biology, starting with the skeleton, the soft parts (of which there is some direct but mostly indirect evidence), their flight, how they got around on the ground, and their reproductive biology. These explorations into pterosaurs in general is followed by several chapters devoted to the various groups, with a treatment of the evidence for each group, reconstructions of anatomy, locomotion in the air and on the ground, and ecology.

The resemblance of this layout to a detailed field guide for birds (or some other group) is enhanced by the use of color-coded bleeds at the top of each page, separating the book’s major sections or groups of chapters. The book ends with a consideration of the origins and endings of the “Pterosaur Empire.” It turns out that we don’t actually know why they went extinct. They lasted to the end of the Cretaceous, so going extinct along with their dinosaur cousins is a reasonable hypothesis, but they had already become somewhat rare by that time.

Pterosaurs are cool. Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy is a cool book.

Of related interest:

  • LOL Pterosaurs ….
  • Reconsidering the Reconstruction of the Pterosaur
  • Flying Dinosaurs: A New Book on the Dinosaur Bird Link
  • Giant Semiaquatic Predatory Dinosaur
  • Titanic Fearless Dinosaur Unearthed
  • Honey, I Shrunk The Dinosaurs …