Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees

Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees

by Mike Shanahan


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Over millions of years, fig trees have shaped our world, influenced our evolution, nourished our bodies and fed our imaginations. And as author and ecologist Mike Shanahan proclaims, “The best could be yet to come.”

Gods, Wasps and Stranglers weaves together the mythology, history and ecology of one of the world’s most fascinating—and diverse—groups of plants, from their starring role in every major religion to their potential to restore rainforests, halt the loss of rare and endangered species and even limit climate change.

In this lively and joyous book, Shanahan recounts the epic journeys of tiny fig wasps, whose eighty-million-year-old relationship with fig trees has helped them sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees; the curious habits of fig-dependent rhinoceros hornbills; figs’ connection to Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad; and even their importance to Kenya’s struggle for independence.

Ultimately, Gods, Wasps and Stranglers is a story about humanity’s relationship with nature, one that is as relevant to our future as it is to our past. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781603587976
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication date: 04/12/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 505,653
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Mike Shanahan is a freelance writer with a doctorate in rainforest ecology. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms, produced award-winning journalism and spent several weeks of his life at the annual United Nations climate change negotiations. He is interested in what people think about nature and our place in it. His writing includes work published by The Economist, Nature, The Ecologist and Ensia, and chapters of Dry: Life without Water (Harvard University Press); Climate Change and the Media (Peter Lang Publishing) and Culture and Climate Change: Narratives (Shed). He is the illustrator of Extraordinary Animals (Greenwood Publishing Group) and maintains a blog called Under the Banyan.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Chapter 1 Snakes and Ladders & Tantalising Figs 1

Chapter 2 Trees of Life, Trees of Knowledge 11

Chapter 3 A Long Seduction 27

Chapter 4 Banyans and the Birth of Botany 43

Chapter 5 Botanical Monkeys 53

Chapter 6 Sex & Violence in the Hanging Gardens 63

Chapter 7 Struggles for Existence 77

Chapter 8 Goodbye to the Gardeners, Hello to the Heat 93

Chapter 9 From Dependence to Domination 105

Chapter 10 The War of the Trees 122

Chapter 11 The Testimony of Volcanoes 136

Chapter 12 Once Destroyed, Forever Lost? 148

Epilogue: A Wedding Invitation 159

Acknowledgements 165

Sources 168

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