Butterflies: Decoding Their Signs and Symbols

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A pioneering exploration of butterfly markings and how humans respond to them.

People have always marveled at the colors, patterns and designs on the wings of butterflies and moths, but there has been little attempt to decode them or to recognize any great significance in them.

In Butterflies: Decoding Their Signs & Symbols Philip Howse explains how these markings protect butterflies and moths from their principal predators, including ...

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Overview

A pioneering exploration of butterfly markings and how humans respond to them.

People have always marveled at the colors, patterns and designs on the wings of butterflies and moths, but there has been little attempt to decode them or to recognize any great significance in them.

In Butterflies: Decoding Their Signs & Symbols Philip Howse explains how these markings protect butterflies and moths from their principal predators, including birds, lizards and monkeys. These insectivores, he argues, detect their prey by perceiving small details of shape and color rather than the "whole picture" of the insect. These details can create an illusion that camouflages the butterfly or threatens its predator.

If humans look at the detail on a butterfly in the way that a bird sees it, surprising images reveal themselves: owls' eyes, snakes' heads,
caterpillars, lizards, wasps, scorpions, birds' beaks, feathers. Howse explores how these signs and symbols, so important in the animal world, became archetypal symbols in our world. Photographs and illustrations chronicle how butterflies and their markings have appeared throughout history, whether on cave walls and in modern art or in our most important mythologies, where they were transformed into the Mother Goddesses by the ancient Greeks, the ancient Egyptians and the Aztecs.

Butterflies: Decoding Their Signs & Symbols is a fascinating illustrated study of butterflies, but it also poses provocative questions and offers conclusions that will leave readers with a new view of the natural world and how they perceive it. Naturalists and lepidopterists will find it of particular interest.

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Editorial Reviews

The Times - Simon Barnes
... the most visually exciting book of the year ... Howse has put together a teasing and brilliant treat; a piece of work that is designed to dazzle and boggle and bewilder.
Resurgence - Horatio Mopurgo
... a gem filled with curious information and ideas that explores how we perceive visual images in the natural world. This is a beautiful and intelligent work.
Antenna (Royal Entomological Society Journal)
... fascinating, enthralling ... We are taken on an odyssey of epic proportions ... [Butterflies] is full of intriguing ideas and thought-provoking concepts and is illustrated with a wealth of arresting colored images. For anyone with an interest in insect communication or the role of entomology in our wider cultural landscape, Philip Howse's book is not to be missed.
Choice - R. E. Lee Jr.
In this unusual book, insect behavior researcher Howse captures the imagination of adults as he examines how wing markings protect butterflies and moths against their predators.... This book broadly considers the evolution of diverse color patterns from the perspective of the intended receiver. The exceptional color photographs alone justify the price of this volume—see especially the book jacket's sequential depiction of a butterfly in flight. However, the author goes well beyond an examination of mimicry and protective coloration in insects to consider how images and symbols from nature shape perception of the world. Howse supports his arguments and conjectures with eclectic and wide-ranging examples from literature, art, mythology, and archaeological relics. This book will interest both scientists and nonscientists because it challenges readers to reexamine their preconceptions and consider seemingly unconnected ideas. Recommended. Academic, professional, and general audiences,
all levels.
Muskogee Phoenix - Molly Day
Butterflies: Decoding their Signs and Symbols by Philip Howse is much more than a book of butterfly facts. It is an engaging read for anyone fascinated by anthropology and the study of insects.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554077731
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 8/12/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 11.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Howse is a retired professor from Southampton, England, and the author of professional books and research articles on insect behavior and ecology. He has also developed award-winning environmentally friendly methods of insect control.

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