Lost Animals: Extinct, Endangered, and Rediscovered Species

John Whitfield. Smithsonian, $35 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58834-698-8
Science journalist Whitfield takes a flawed if intermittently appealing look at various animals that have populated Earth over its history. On the positive side, many of the book’s hundreds of images are striking. For example, there’s Titanoboa, 43 feet long and weighing over 2,425 pounds, “the largest land vertebrate of its time, the biggest snake in history, and the largest predator on Earth for 10 million years.” Elsewhere, readers will encounter Chalicotherium, a relative of horses and rhinos that was as large as an elephant and had a “head like a horse, a body like a gorilla, and claws like a sloth.” Unfortunately, the text entries for each species are rarely longer than several paragraphs and leave readers wanting to know more about the animals’ significance. The images are also marred by visually jarring pairings between animals of vastly different sizes, such as when an image of the six-inch Purgatorius, the first-known primate, appears opposite one of the eight-foot Barylambda, one of the first large mammals, without any indication of scale for either. A lackluster execution sinks the otherwise promising premise. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/29/2020
Release date: 10/06/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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