Alone on the endless red-sand desert in the Australian outback, tracking Varanus giganteus, the perentie lizard that grows to be more than six feet long...for desert rat Eric Pianka, such adventures have led to a satisfying, if unusual, way of life, as well as a distinguished career as a field biologist.
In The Lizard Man Speaks, Pianka recounts more than thirty years of adventures in reptile studies. He tells of "lizarding" in the North American deserts, the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa, and the Great Victoria Desert in Western Australia. His vivid imagery draws the reader into a world where lions lurk in the darkness beyond a gecko hunter's lights, where being stranded by car trouble miles from the last outpost is a constant danger, and where the wilderness still deserves to be called wild.
Along the way, Pianka provides much general information about lizard ecology, the fire succession cycle, and the interaction of humans with the landscape. And he reveals the springs of his own determined spirit and love of solitude, describing a near-fatal boyhood accident and its shaping and character-building effect on the life that followed.
Eric R. Pianka is the Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professor of Zoology at the University of Texas at Austin. The world's leading authority on the ecology of desert lizards, he is also the author of the classic textbook Evolutionary Ecology.
"This is a strange and interesting book by the well-known ecologist, Eric Pianka. As an episodic treatment of Pianka's early life and extensive fieldwork in Australia and Africa, it combines childhood experiences, travelogue, lizard biology, field anecdote, social commentary and the occasional rant.... As it turns out, Eric Pianka is the interesting story here, not the lizards he studies.... We are given tantalizing glimpses into what makes this field ecologist tick, and it is this that keeps us reading."—Quarterly Review of Biology
"This book, with its mix of adventure, natural history, human interest, and social commentary, is likely to be enjoyed by a wide audience. Pianka's talents as a scientist and writer are so evident that I can only hope that in the near future he extends his interests to the eastern tropical rain forest regions of the fascinating Australian continent, perhaps providing a sequel to The Lizard Man Speaks."—Bioscience