My friend Don Buden just published this great new field guide in collaboration with his colleague, Danko Taborosi: Reptiles of the Federated States of Micronesia. Don kindly sent me a copy from FSM, which arrived the other day, and it is a beautiful book. Nearly every page has lush, color illustrations, including maps, scientific drawings, live photos of the animals, and pictures of the country’s idyllic island scenery.
I’ve always loved field guides. Not only do they allow one to talk accurately about the surrounding flora and fauna, starting with their correct names, but they also let one dream about seeing the secretive, rare, and often bizarre local creatures that may appear at any moment. As a child, I especially liked the Peterson Field Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes of North America, since it contained amazing illustrations of oarfish, sunfish, and other surreal fish that tested my imagination.
One impressive species that is mentioned in Buden and Taborosi’s book is the leatherback turtle, and I added a small bit of detail to the book by bringing to Don’s attention the story below of a specimen caught on Ponape when I lived there as a kid. At that time the FSM was the Trust Territory of the Pacific, and the administration occasionally published a newsletter containing stories from the region. I saved and scanned a clipping showing this enormous catch, which constitutes one of only a handful of confirmed sightings of leatherbacks in the FSM. Unfortunately, after being sent to Guam the specimen decomposed before being preserved by a taxidermist, my father told me, after a power outage cut off its refrigeration. It’s a pity the animal was even caught to begin with, and doubly sad that it was not preserved for education, but at least someone took this photo.