Smithsonian Institute Press

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The Titles

The Development and Evolution of Butterfly Wing Patterns, by H. Frederik Nijhout
Quaternary Insects and Their Environments, by Scott A. Elias (Ed.)

The Reviews

The Development and Evolution of Butterfly Wing Patterns

by H. Frederik Nijhout

ISBN = 0 87474 921 2H(Hbk), 0 87474 917 4(Pbk),
Price = £25.00 (Pbk)
Published = 1991
Review written = 23/September/1998
297 pages
8 colour plates, 150 text figures

That the bewildering diversity of colour and pattern perceivable in any regional guide to butterflies can be reduced to a series of elements, cohesive units whose homologies can be traced across nearly all species is surprising. However after reading this book you will understand how this is true and you will see butterflies with new and more perceptive eyes.

Starting with an introduction to the material basis for wing colouration and wing development the author leads you on through a series of well illustrated steps on a journey of amazing discovery. After describing what is present, or potentially present the author goes on to explain how to interpret existing patterns in relationship to the fundamental ground plan. He then describes some supportive experiments before going on to deal with the genetics behind the observed patterns. Finally he takes a look at model systems and evolutionary processes.

Contains chapters on: The Material Basis of Wing Colour Patterns; Pattern Elements and Homologies; The analysis of Wing Patterns; Exploring Pattern Morphospace; Experimental Studies on Colour Pattern Formation; Genetics, Mimicry and Polyphenisms; Models and Mechanisms; Evolution of a Process; Appendix A: Classification and Systematics of Butterflies; Appendix B: Higher Classification of the Nymphalidae; Appendix C: Genera Surveyed for Figures 2.19 and 2.21; Bibliography; Index.

This is an unusual and scholarly work of considerable depth which will be of intense interest to both Lepidopterists and Anatomists in general. The author is an internationally acclaimed expert in this field who has written in this book a very comprehensive treatise on morphological evolution as it relates to butterfly wing patterns. A very valuable resource for any academic library at the very least


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Quaternary Insects and Their Environments

by Scott A. Elias (Ed.)

ISBN = 1 56098 303 5
Price = £
Published = 1994
Review written = 16/August/1998
284 pages

This is another one of those books that has been a pleasant surprise to read/review. Having worked as an archaeologist, and being an entomologist I was vaguely aware of the possibility of archeoentomology, but I was amazed at the scope and quality of the work that is being done. Insect fossils of recent origin, (< 40 000 years before present), are playing an ever increasing role in our understanding of our history of both our ancestors lives and the timing of climatic changes that have effected the world through the Holocene glaciations.

Beetles because of their hard chitinous exoskeletons often make excellent fossils in water-logged, frozen or hot and arid environments. When over 50% of these fossils can be identified as extant species, some of which have remained unchanged for 30 million years exiting things are bound to happen.

This book is a review of the current state of Quaternary paleoentomology. It describes research from all around the world, dealing equally with European, Russian, Siberian, North American and British studies. It is quite eloquent in some chapters and most of it is easily readable. The sections that are not are those aimed at fellow researchers, these and the chapters on Russian studies, which supply information not easily obtainable in English, will be of great use to other paleoentomologists. But this book is not primarily for other paleoentomologists or even their students. It is for ordinary Archaeologists and Entomologists, a bridge between these different disciplines hopefully leading to an increase of traffic between the two.

The only disappointing thing about this book was that though Britain is acknowledged as the leader in Quaternary entomological studies no paleoentomological studies exist from the county of Devon where I live, I will have to try and find the time to do something about this. This book contains chapters on :- The History of Quaternary Insect Studies; Methods; Important Fossil Insect Groups and their Identification; The Value of Insects in Paleoecology; Paleoclimatic Studies Using Insects; Insect Zoogeography in the Quaternary; The Use of Insect Fossils in Archaeology; European Studies; Siberian Studies; Eastern Beringian Studies; Other Studies in the New World; Conclusions and Prospectus. It also contains and Appendix: Insects and Other Arthropods Mentioned in the Text, References, a Glossary and an Index.

All in all I greatly enjoyed reading this book and thoroughly recommend it to both Archaeologists and Entomologists around the world. I would also recommend it to anyone teaching evolutionary biology. Highly Recommended

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