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Fire in the Turtle House
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About the Author

Osha Gray Davidson is the author of The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South The Enchanted Braid: Coming to Terms with Nature on the Coral Reef, and other books. His work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, and The New Republic. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Pulitzer-nominee Davidson (The Best of Enemies) offers the reader an eloquent ecocautionary tale wrapped in a scientific mystery. Sea turtles have thrived for more than 100 million years. Now their existence is threatened not only by human depredation but also by a virulent scourge of unknown origin. In the 1930s, marine biologists began to notice ugly growths on some aquarium turtle specimens. Fibropapillomatosis are nonmalignant tumors that endanger the world's sea turtle population through a range of fatal complications. The pandemic has spread throughout the world's oceans with devastating effects on these docile sea-dwelling reptiles. From remote Pacific atolls to Key West, the author provides an underwater travelogue in search of an answer to the disease's origin. Along the way, we meet an entourage of fascinating marine biologists, veterinarians and dedicated lay people in a common quest for both a cause and a cure. With a quick-flowing narrative sparkling with wit, Davidson also provides anecdotal episodes about other similarly intriguing situations in the natural world. Tales of 18th-century Russian arctic explorers and sea cows, Columbus's experiences with turtles in the Caribbean, captive elephants in Florida, the British Museum's rarities, snake aficionados and poisonous Australian bacterial plumes are deftly combined to add breadth, depth and pathos to the story. Readers interested in ecology and animals, as well as those who value strong prose, will be intrigued and troubled by this book. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

A recent trend in science books for the general public is to write the "biography of an idea." Extending the genre to natural history and ecology, this book follows the attempts of marine scientists, veterinarians, and turtle lovers to unravel the causes and find a cure for fibropappilomatosis (FP), a serious epidemic disease currently devastating the green sea turtle population worldwide. Using FP research as a theme, Davidson (The Enchanted Braid: Coming to Terms with Nature on the Coral Reef) discusses marine ecology, disease transmission, overfishing, the migration of alien species between ocean basins, and especially the human factor in the spread of disease and pollution throughout the oceans. The author makes complex material understandable to the lay reader, though the book's rambling quality suggests that he may be trying to cover too much in too few pages. Marine turtles have been generally ignored by the public, overshadowed by whales and dolphins; this book provides some well-deserved attention to the preservation of these valuable animals. Recommended for all public and academic libraries as well as all libraries where there is interest in ecology, marine science, and zoology. Margaret Rioux, MBL/WHOI Lib., Woods Hole, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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