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The Ants by Bert Hölldobler
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May 03, 12

bookshelves: science
Read in May, 2012

THE ANTS. (1990). Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson. *****.
Don’t be fooled by the five-star rating. It was not a five-star rating for me, since most of the material in this heavy tome was way over my head, but a five-star meaning that it is the only book you will ever need to read if you are studying ants – the science of myrmecology (my new word for the day). This is not just a coffee table book, it can also be used as a coffee table. The authors review, in exhaustive detail, all aspects of all topics in the anatomy, physiology, social organization, ecology, and natural history of ants. According to the flap, “(The) book illustrates each of the 292 living genera of ants – there are approximately 8,800 known species – and provides detailed taxonomic keys to them, region by region around the world.” If you are not a biologist, but do have a background in science – like me – you will be able to follow the authors’ work reasonably well, but will, probably – like me – skip over the hundreds of charts and tables that delve into the details of these little critters. Where did ants come from? We don’t know. It looks as if they had wasps of some type in their heritage, but fossil evidence is sparse. The oldest ant fossil (preserved in amber) was found to be approximately 80 million years old. It looks much the same as today’s ants. “The Ants,” again, according to the blurbs, is “the first fully comprehensive treatise on these insects since the beginning of this century...It will be welcomed both as an introduction (!!!) to the subject and as an encyclopedic reference for researchers...” This is highly recommended to those researchers out there. You know who you are.
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message 1: by Caroline (last edited May 04, 2012 11:21PM) (new)

Caroline I've been umming about re-reading EO Wilson's The Diversity of Life. As suggested by the title it is not too specialized - in writing about biodiversity he bring lots of different critters into the story. I don't think I could tackle a book purely on ants....

Having said that I live on sandy soil, and sandy soil = ants. My least favourite experience of this was finding my compost heap had been turned into a giant ants' nest. Maybe reading a book about them might give me a more generous attitude towards them. (From what you say though, the science would be over my head...)


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