A distinguished scholarly reference work, this volume includes detailed accounts of the morphology and distribution of the fossil snakes of North America and also remarks on their evolutionary, zoogeographic, and paleoecological patterns. The heart of the book consists of detailed systematic accounts of the known fossil snakes of North America and their localities. Extinct fossil taxa are discussed and illustrated, and many are re-described on the basis of new information. The book provides illustrations of diagnostic vertebrae and criteria for the identification of presently living fossil snake taxa as well as descriptions of the modern characteristics and ranges of these species.
Color photographs in the 16-page insert present a catalog of representative living snake species.
The Introduction includes a brief history of the study of fossil snakes in North America and comments on the major specializations of snakes, the origin of snakes, and the snake skeleton. It is followed by a description of the criteria used to date, identify, and classify fossil snakes. The book concludes with an epoch-by-epoch discussion of the zoogeographic, paleoecologic, and evolutionary patterns in Mesozoic, Tertiary, and Quaternary North American fossil snakes. An important part of this discussion is a detailed account of the extraordinary evolutionary explosion of snakes in the Miocene. The discussion of Pleistocene fossil snakes reflects upon population adjustments to glacial advances and retreats, and upon the remarkable evolutionary stasis of the group during the epoch. An epilogue speculates on the future of snakes in the modern world.
The culmination of a lifetime of research, Fossil Snakes of North America will take its place as the standard reference for the subject.