Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#StevesLibrary: Platypus Matters

Regular readers of the blog will know that it isn’t just books on amphibians and reptiles that I read, but all areas of science. It feels like I haven’t produced one of these reviews in forever – apologies for that I had somewhat of a reading hiatus, so it took me a little while to get back into reading. Hopefully, I am over this now as I have been digesting books at a steady rate again recently. The first of these books is Jack Ashby’s Platypus Matters, which from the title you may think that it is focussed solely on platypuses. However, it is much more than that! Platypus Matters is a captivating literary journey into the mysterious and fascinating world of Australian mammals, as well as the colonial history behind why we deem the wildlife of Australia to be inferior to the rest of the world. It is rare to find such an exploration of biology, conservation, behaviour, and cultural significance in such an accessible form.

One of the great things I love about TetZooCon, is the ability to meet so many amazing people working in different field to yourself. Ashby is one of these people, that I have met numerous time – most recently I bumped into him while in Oxford. If his name looks familiar, it may be due to his previous book Animal Kingdom: A Natural History in 100 Objects, which he authored while working at the Grant Museum of Zoology in London. Ashby is now the Assistant Director of the Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, where continues his research on Australian mammals – some of which is described throughout Platypus Matters. One of the book’s greatest strengths lies in Ashby’s ability to blend scientific accounts with engaging storytelling. He seamlessly weaves together anecdotes from his own fieldwork, historical accounts, and cutting-edge research to paint a vivid portrait of the platypus and other Australian mammals, providing both a historical and a contemporary account.

What sets Platypus Matters apart is its deep reverence for its subject matter. Ashby’s passion for the mammals of Australia (which aren’t just marsupials and monotremes) shines through on every page, infusing the narrative with a sense of wonder and respect for these extraordinary creatures. He celebrates their uniqueness while also highlighting the urgent conservation challenges they face in an increasingly human-dominated world. Moreover, Platypus Matters is not merely a dry recitation of facts; it’s a call to action. Ashby eloquently articulates the importance of preserving the habitats of the platypus and other endangered species, urging readers to become stewards of the natural world. In doing so, he reminds us of our interconnectedness with all living things and the responsibility we bear to safeguard biodiversity for future generations. This is particularly true for those species that we have already lost due our disregard and discrimination of the natural world, such as the thylacine.

In conclusion, Platypus Matters is a triumph of natural history writing – informative, inspiring, and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Whether you’re a devoted wildlife enthusiast or simply curious about the unfamiliar and wonderful creatures that inhabit our planet, this book is sure to leave a lasting impression. Hopefully, it will also help to change your opinions on the wildlife of Australia, highlighting their importance at the global scale.

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