Monday, January 25, 2010

Book: Ant Ecology

"Ant Ecology," edited by Lori Lach, Catherine L. Parr, and Kirsti L. Abbott, and forward by Edward O. Wilson.

I list the editors because that's what the book does and with fair reason. Every chapter has been written by expert Myrmecologiests currently studying that particular field. More than 60 people authored this book citing studies almost after every sentance. If nothing else it's a wonderful reference book for studies to read.

There are a reasonable amount of images, graphs, and charts. I wouldn't say they're few and far between but there aren't many of them either. There's just enough to get you to read on I think. I mention the images and charts because they help to break up and understand the heavy scientific language the book is written in.

Alex Wild's work is featured throughout as are several other photographers. I've always thought his work in particular was very under used but it's not the real reason to buy this book. One could easily buy this for the Kindle, Amazon's electronic hand held library, and be reasonably happy without all the pictures and graphs I suppose. (It's also cheaper for Canadian residents who need to pay $200 for the book).

I am not an expert and couldn't even begin to review this properly. But considering almost everyone in the field wrote it or contributed in some way I don't know who's left to review it in an unbiased way. That said, this book is not for a novas. It's a professional book written by the experts themselves to tell their colleges how the science as a whole stands. A biology student looking to get into the field, or eccentric insect enthusiast like myself is probably the ideal audience.

Chapters that caught my eye:
Chapter 4 Ant Conservation
Chapter 7 Food and Shelter
Chapter 8 Ant Diversity
Chapter 12 Foraging and Defence Strategies
Chapter 14 Invasion Processes and Causes of Success
Chapter 15 Consequences of Ant Invasions
Chapter 16 Invasive Ant Management

I'll try and read through it all and report back if I've anything interesting to add. I select chapters to read as I find them interesting rather than reading them in order. Currently I'm on Ant Conservation and I'm loving it. I was shocked to learn that like Lepidoptera a few ant species are devoted to host plants. Ant example given is Camponotus mississippiensis is only known to nest in the branches of white ash trees, Fraxinus americanus. It's wonderful jewels of information like this that make this book worth my time. Unfortunately this is among the few North American examples given and more research would be need to design an "Ant Garden"