Skip to Content

'Amphibians and Reptiles of Michigan:' LATE CURATOR EMERITUS AL HOLMAN'S FINAL BOOK IS COMPLETED

In the newly published “The Amphibians and Reptiles of Michigan,” author and the late MSU Museum Curator Emeritus J. Alan Holman (1931-2006) explores the state’s amphibians and reptiles in detail and with many helpful illustrations, making this the only volume of its kind.

Al HolmanFollowing Holman’s passing, the project was completed with Wayne State University Press, thanks to the efforts of James Harding, a longtime MSU Museum colleague and friend of Holman, who updated and edited the text, with assistance from James Gillingham (emeritus professor of biology at Central Michigan University) and David Mifsud (of Herpetological Resource and Management). Harding, MSU Museum science educator and MSU Zoology faculty member, also contributed a majority of the photos for the book.

“It was very sad that Al did not live to see his final book published, but we are pleased that it is now coming out,” Harding notes. “While we were happy to contribute some updates and final edits to the text, it remains totally Al Holman's work, and the book will be a fine contribution to the herpetology of Michigan.”

J. Alan Holman was curator emeritus of vertebrate paleontology at the Michigan State University Museum, emeritus professor of geology and zoology at Michigan State University, and a museum associate at the University of Nebraska State Museum. Holman was considered the leading authority of New World fossil snakes and published more than 260 works in paleoherpetology, herpetology, and vertebrate paleontology. He was the MSU Museum’s first curator of vertebrate paleontology, serving 1967-1996, and he continued to research and publish actively as curator emeritus, including the popular “Michigan Roadside Naturalist,” co-authored with his wife Margaret “Peggy” Holman (1940-2006), archaeologist and MSU Museum research associate.

More about “The Amphibians and Reptiles of Michigan: A Quaternary and Recent Faunal Adventure”
With its temperate climate and variety of habitats, Michigan supports a diverse array of animals and plants, including 54 species of amphibians and reptiles. The dispersal and biology of the Michigan herpetofauna—amphibians and reptiles—is even more unique because Michigan consists of two peninsulas that project into large freshwater seas and also because it was completely covered by a massive ice sheet a relatively short time ago.

Amphibians and Reptiles of MichiganHolman uniquely bridges the gap between neo- and paleoherpetology and shows that Michigan’s modern herpetofaunas reflect Pleistocene (ice age) and Holocene (warm period after the ice age) events, as the entire modern population was forced to re-invade the state after the last withdrawal of ice.

He discusses Michigan as an amphibian and reptile habitat, including a geological, climatic, and vegetational history. He then presents recent species accounts, covering all 54 species of amphibians and reptiles, along with their general distribution, Michigan distribution (with range maps), geographic variation, habitat and habits, reproduction and growth, diet, predation and defense, interaction with humans, behavioral characteristics, population health, and general remarks. Holman also examines the Michigan herpetofauna in Quaternary and recent historical times and the species accounts include Pleistocene, Holocene, and archaeological records.

Color photographs of major herpetological habitats in Michigan are provided and color photographs of all modern species are included. Black-and-white illustrations depict both modern and ancient species. Herpetologists, paleontologists, zoologists, ecologists, and general biologists, as well as anyone who loves salamanders, frogs, turtles, and snakes will appreciate the comprehensive research presented in “The Amphibians and Reptiles of Michigan.” (312 pages; $50.)

Learn more here.