Book Recollection: Deadly Instinct

I bet you thought the next post would be Part 2 of the Mute Swan post.  I felt bad having to go back to the bird topic so quick after the barrage from Project Chekov so trying to ease you back onto the feathered features.  Instead figured it was about time to throw out another Book Recollection.  Today’s recollection comes to us thanks to Melissa Farris who compiled a product she called Deadly Instinct.  I can’t remember what made me aware of this book, but my guess would be one of the wildlife photographers I follow on Google+ brought it too my attention.  No need for a lot of convincing past the cover which had the National Geographic seal along with a Lion bringing down a Wildebeest – I’m in.   Big thanks to Linda who ended up getting me this book for Christmas.  Technically, coming in at only 180 pages, it is really more of a photography book than a reading book.  There was a setup at the beginning of each chapter that set the tone for the set of images.  Once that page or two was consumed, it was on to a nice collection of shots… umm let me correct that.  There were some FANTASTIC shots, a lot of cool wildlife shots and then some I simply put in the TOTAL CRAP category.  I’m sorry, but I like my pictures to be in focus and the attempt to show speed by throwing the shutter speed way low resulting in a blur you wouldn’t even know what it was unless they told you is not worth my time – trust me, there were more of these shots than I would have expected alongside the other quality shots.  I wouldn’t let the bad shots deter you from enjoying all the good shots, but note to author – there were plenty of better shots you could have used of the Gorillas. The best part of the book was it had a number of pictures from my favorite photographer – Joel Sartore.  If you recall I featured one of his books previously called Rare (link here).  I had a feeling some of his work would be included based on the National Geographic stamp on the cover.  Pretty used to his style these days and can usually pick out his work without seeing the credits first.  Was surprised to learn he started on his naturalist journey after seeing the harsh conditions of the Galveston coast.  Always cool to learn more about the background of photographer’s you spend a lot of time following.

I should probably mention something before people run off to purchase this book to see the “purdy” pictures.  The pictures are not all “pretty” in the hang on your wall and let your visitors gawk over mode.  The truth is the intent of the book is to show how lethal, dangerous and aggressive wild animal behavior is.  If you are weak of stomach or god forbid a PETA member save your money and go watch the Muppets Movie instead.  This book is full of violent, bloody wildlife on wildlife encounters.  Oh, and a lot snakes so Linda has been warned to never open the book herself – about 5 pages in there is a particular awesome picture of a Vine Snake that even made me hesitate when I turned to that page.  Also very appreciative of the heavy paper stock she used which helps maintain the quality of the pictures.  Kudos to the photographers that provided all the outstanding shots to this book.  It always inspires me when I see the work of photographers that are clearly on top of their field.  A pretty short recollection but the book only took me two nights of light reading before hitting the hay.

Hit the jump to see my takeaways.


  • The first National Geographic magazine devoted to wildlife was first published over 100 years ago
  • George Shiras III introduced the first federal legislation that protected migrating birds as a Pennsylvania Congressman and discovered a species of Moose that was named after him.
  • My favorite photographer Joel Sartore was profiled – apparently the horrific conditions of the Galveston coastline (tar, litter etc.) put him on the course to help preserve the natural world
  • Looking through a camera lens, it turns out, is often much like gazing into a mirror – much to the horror I’m guessing of individuals who forget our eyes are on the front of our head and we sport bicuspids.
  • Thanks to the wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone, the cottonwoods are in a resurgence which protects soil erosion
  • Actually had an underwater picture of a Pelican after it dive bombed into the water for a fish – that was really cool since I just recently witnessed how they fish
  • The Mongoose was brought to Hawaii in 1883 to help control the rat infestations in the sugar cane fields – now habitually preys on their ground nesting birds – once again man f’ing with nature backfires
  • In the lakes of Oregon’s Williamette Valley lurks a deadly creature – the Rough-skin Newt which carries enough neurotoxin (similar to the Puffer fish – and no I did not know those were toxic either) to kill 25,000 mice, several adult humans or any of its predators except .. the Garter Snake – the more toxic the Newt gets, the more resistant the Garters become – evolution at its finest – as well as the harmless Hoverfly which evolved to take on the coloring of a wasp for protection
  • I can always pick out Sartore’s later work – his passion is to take fantastic shots of rare wildlife on an all black background – his Rough-skin Newt picture is awesome
  • They mentioned that the Black Rhino will charge a perceived threat to investigate or intimidate and if the threat doesn’t run launch a full scale charge – according to the St. Louis Zoo their eyesight is so bad that they have to run up to see what the hell something is and this is often perceived as an aggressive action
  • I had no idea that wild stallions were so aggressive to each other – attacking throats, ripping ears off, biting and kicking – this is why I am not a fan of horses!
  • Panamint Rattlesnakes (although apparently common in many snake species) engage in a ritualized combat dance which results in them becoming entwined – some say this is what inspired Hermes’s staff (medical profession symbol)
  • We share 98% of our DNA with Chimpanzees – wonder how much of that remaining 2% is a TAIL!
  • Ravens have been observed dislodging overhead rocks to drive humans away  .. telling you, those Ravens are one evolutionary step away from ruling the world
  • Spotted Hyenas are often born in twins eyes open and sharp teeth at the ready which allows them to battle with each other right after birth – once a dominant one is determined the social order is established and the outright fighting is ended
  • Remember seeing that picture of the Polar bear befriending a sled dog on the Internet.. well, they have that picture in this book along with the individual who took those pictures – just an awesome experience captured for all to enjoy.
  • Sartore actually has a set of shots included that were taken at the International Wolf Center – he was smarter than we were – he went in the Winter, we fought the mosquitoes in the Summer

3 thoughts on “Book Recollection: Deadly Instinct”

  1. Hey, I know something! The caduceus, the staff of Hermes with the two entwined snakes and wings, is a symbol of commerce and negotiation. The Rod of Asclepius, which has ONE snake entwined around a rod, is the symbol associated with healing and medicine. They are sometimes confused, as with this author, apparently. Derek showed me this just a couple of months ago. From the Wikipedia article on the Rod of Asclepius:


    “It is relatively common, especially in the United States, to find the caduceus, with its two snakes and wings, used as a symbol of medicine instead of the correct Rod of Asclepius, with only a single snake. This usage is erroneous, popularised largely as a result of the adoption of the caduceus as its insignia by the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1902 at the insistence of a single officer (though there are conflicting claims as to whether this was Capt. Frederick P. Reynolds or Col. John R. van Hoff).

    The rod of Asclepius is the dominant symbol for professional healthcare associations in the United States. One survey found that 62% of professional healthcare associations used the rod of Asclepius as their symbol. The same survey found that 76% of commercial healthcare organizations used the Caduceus symbol. The author of the study suggests the difference exists because professional associations are more likely to have a real understanding of the two symbols, whereas commercial organizations are more likely to be concerned with the visual impact a symbol will have in selling their products.

    The initial errors leading to its adoption and the continuing confusion it generates are well known to medical historians. The long-standing and abundantly attested historical associations of the caduceus with commerce, theft, deception, and death are considered by many to be inappropriate in a symbol used by those engaged in the healing arts. This has occasioned significant criticism of the use of the caduceus in a medical context.”


    I also knew the Puffer Fish was poisonous–isn’t that what people in Japan sometimes die from after they eat it?

    All the rest of it I didn’t know, so thanks!

    The 98% of shared DNA never impressed me. First, they would say that 95% of our DNA is junk, something else I never believed for a second and which is apparently being overthrown big-time (and it turns out there are ALSO many many many more expressions of DNA, sort of second order ones that control genes, that they just found). But back to conventional wisdom: 98% shared, but 95% junk. If this were true, I bet the 2% that is different is NOT junk, and therefore 40% of all the non-junk DNA is different. Which is huge, although I don’t believe it’s that big, either. The whole thing is bogus. See .

    Why is the reintroduction of wolves resulting in the revival of cottonwoods? The wolves are eating elk or moose that would nibble on the cottonwoods?

    Thanks for the post! As I tell everyone, I’ve always loved to read book reviews and I read as many as I can. You learn a whole lot from them, you get the latest information available, and with a knowledgeable reviewer you get perspective as well. So this was great!



  2. Hmm, the more I read that webpage I linked to about the DNA study, the dodgier it seems. Especially the second half about chromosomes being modulated with laser beams and about repairing genetic damage through suitable modulated radio and light frequencies, in a web article written by a “spiritual counselor and a practicing motivational speaker.” 😦

    But the DNA study I referred to appeared in the journal Science, so I’d like to replace that link with a more authoritative one from the University of Washington:



  3. Wow, the mega comment! So it seems there is a rift between the medical and commercial community – guessing this is a similar argument between say the shake weight vs the health community and we all know the shake weight is the most awesome training device ever invented regardless of those medical professions who obviously is so incompetent they use the wrong symbol… I think the government should step in and do a survey of all health professional board rooms and correct them whenever they try an obvious attempt to pull the wool over the people who love the shake weight.. just saying if the FCC is going to come up with stupid ideas they might as well go all the way.

    I see my education on the puffer fish is deficient. I just like watching them puff in puff out puff in puff out puff in – could watch that all day .. but now that I now they can KILL me they aren’t so cute – damn you animal gods and your sneaky defense tricks. Not so sure if it is the fault of the puffer fish killing the Japanese people as it is they like RAW fish! Anything beyond that death wish is just candles on the coffin.

    Junk DNA – are you serious? I have no junk DNA in me… every bit of it is used to make it through my hectic day. There’s the DNA strings that successfully allow me turn the channel whenever a Pearl Jam or Metallica sound enters my ears. Then there’s the defensive DNA that spins up the defensive posture whenever a clown image enters the eyes. And you CANNOT be calling the DNA in my brain that refuses to sit still when there’s a piss poor picture hanging attempt that results in a less than perfect level. These are traits that have NOT been demonstrated by chimps so obviously it is a higher order DNA category and therefore NOT junk.. or embedded somewhere in the leftover 2% but guessing those particular strands are tooooo long to fit in that small fraction of space. I now rest my case and turn to George – the TAILLESS monkey

    Hey, joking aside thanks for the insights – alway a plus when I learn something!


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