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A World of Insects: The Harvard University Press Reader by Ring T. Cardé

As we follow the path of a giant water bug or peer over the wing of a gypsy moth, we glimpse our world anew, at once shrunk and magnified. Owing to their size alone, insects’ experience of the world is radically different from ours. Air to them is as viscous as water to us. The predicament of size, along with the dizzying diversity of insects and their status as arguably the most successful organisms on earth, have inspired passion and eloquence in some of the world’s most innovative scientists. A World of Insects showcases classic works on insect behavior, physiology, and ecology published over half a century by Harvard University Press.

James Costa, Vincent Dethier, Thomas Eisner, Lee Goff, Bernd Heinrich, Bert Hölldobler, Kenneth Roeder, Andrew Ross, Thomas Seeley, Karl von Frisch, Gilbert Waldbauer, E. O. Wilson, and Mark Winston—each writer, in his unique voice, paints a close-up portrait of the ways insects explore their environment, outmaneuver their enemies, mate, and care for kin.

Selected by two world-class entomologists, these essays offer compelling descriptions of insect cooperation and warfare, the search for ancient insect DNA in amber, and the energy economics of hot-blooded insects. They also discuss the impact—for good and ill—of insects on our food supply, their role in crime scene investigation, and the popular fascination with pheromones, killer bees, and fire ants. Each entry begins with commentary on the authors, their topics, and the latest research in the field.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674046191
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/16/2012
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 881,917
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ring T. Cardé is Distinguished Professor and A. M. Boyce Chair in the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Riverside.

Vincent H. Resh is Professor of Entomology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Bert Hölldobler is now Foundation Professor of Biology at Arizona State University; formerly Chair of Behavioral Physiology and Sociology at the Theodor Boveri Institute, University of Würzburg. He is also the recipient of the U.S. Senior Scientist Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German government. Until 1990, he was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University.

Edward O. Wilson is Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University. In addition to two Pulitzer Prizes (one of which he shares with Bert Hölldobler), Wilson has won many scientific awards, including the National Medal of Science and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Mark L. Winston is Professor and Senior Fellow at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue and Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Thomas D. Seeley is Professor of Biology, Cornell University.

Gilbert Waldbauer is Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Bernd Heinrich is Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Vermont. He has written several memoirs of his life in science and nature, including One Man’s Owl, Ravens in Winter, and A Year in the Maine Woods, which won the 1995 Rutstrum Authors’ Award for Literary Excellence.

Thomas Eisner was J.G. Schurman Professor of Chemical Ecology at Cornell University. In 1994 he was awarded the National Medal of Science. His film Secret Weapons won the Grand Award at the New York Film Festival and was named Best Science Film by the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Kenneth D. Roeder was a Professor of Physiology and Chairman of the Department of Biology, Tufts University.

Andrew Ross is Principal Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeobotany at the National Museums Scotland.

M. Lee Goff is Coordinator of the Forensic Sciences Program and Professor of Forensic Sciences at Chaminade University of Honolulu.

James T. Costa is Executive Director of Highlands Biological Station and Professor of Biology at Western Carolina University.

Read an Excerpt

Army Ants

From Journey to the Ants

Bert Hölldobler and E.O. Wilson

Dawn breaks at the Rio Sarapiqui of Costa Rica. As the first light suffuses the heavily shaded floor of the rain forest, there is no trace of a breeze to stir the moist and pleasantly cool air. The hour is announced by the flutelike calls of pigeons and oropendolas perched out of sight in the canopy, punctuated by the distant coughs and roaring of howler monkeys. The treetop inhabitants, first to sense the light, call in the change to the diurnal fauna. The night animals soon fall inactive, and a new cast moves onto center stage.

Beneath the slant of a fallen tree, where the base of the trunk is propped above the ground by thick protruding buttresses, a colony of army ants begins to stir. They are swarm raiders, Eciton burchelli, one of the most conspicuous ants in tropical forests from Mexico to Paraguay. The swarm raiders do not build nests like most other ants. They dwell in what Theodore Schneirla and Carl Rettenmeyer, pioneers of the study of army-ant behavior, first called bivouacs, temporary camps in partly sheltered locations. Most of the cover for the queen and immature forms is provided by the bodies of the workers themselves. When the workers gather to establish the bivouac, they link their legs and bodies together with strong hooked claws at the tips of their feet. The chains and nets they form accumulate layer upon interlocking layer until finally the entire worker force constitutes a solid cylindrical or ellipsoidal mass about a meter across. For this reason Schneirla and Rettenmeyer spoke of the resting ant swarm itself as the bivouac.

A half million workers constitute the bivouac, a kilogram of ant flesh. Toward the center of their mass are collected thousands of white larvae and a single heavy-bodied mother queen. For a brief interval in the dry season, a thousand or so males and several virgin queens will be briefly added, but none are present on this and most other occasions.

When the light level around the ants exceeds 0.5 lux, the living cylinder begins to dissolve. Close up, the dark brown conglomerate exudes more of its musky, somewhat fetid odor. The chains and clusters break up and tumble into a churning mass on the ground. As pressure builds, the mass flows outward in all directions, like a viscous liquid poured from a beaker. Soon a raiding column emerges along the path of least resistance and grows away from the bivouac. The tip advances at 20 meters an hour. No leaders take command of the raiding column; any ant can run point. Workers reaching the van press forward alone for a few centimeters and then wheel back into the throng behind them. They are replaced immediately by others who extend the march a little farther.

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