Skip to content

Today let's take a look at Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle by Douglas J. Emlen and illustrated by David J. Tuss

As I clicked on the category "ant books" for this post I realized that is a bit of a stretch. Ants are mentioned on a few pages, but the author doesn't talk about much more than worker ants with big jaws. He actually does most of his research on beetles. That said, he does cover the weapons of the entire animal kingdom. His editors even convinced him to tackle human weapons, although he admits being reluctant to do so.

You can see what the author has to say about his book in this video from American Scientist.

 

Emlen's writing is clear and engaging. He has been able to make some conclusions based on patterns he has seen in the natural world. His observations about cheaters in the world of battle are particularly chilling.

 Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle has elements that are likely to appeal to both those interested in natural history and those interested in weaponry and battle. Definitely recommended.

If you have time, you might want to watch the SciShow Talk Show: Animal Weapons with Doug Emlen & A Southern Three-Banded Armadillo,

plus SciShow Talk Show: More about Animal Weapons with Doug Emlen & Professor Claw the Emperor Scorpion.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (December 1, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1250075319
ISBN-13: 978-1250075314

Disclosures: This book is my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

2

Have you seen the new book The Bee: A Natural History by Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich with contributions from Kelly Allin, Norman Carreck, and Dr. Andrea Quigley?

 

Dr. Wilson-Rich is an urban beekeeper and although (as the cover suggests) honey bees are the main focus of the book, it includes information about all kinds of bees. After discussing the evolution and development of bees, as well as their biology and behavior, the authors review the history of bees and humans and also beekeeping. The authors follow up with "A Directory of Bees," which is a pictorial field guide to solitary bees, bumble bees, stingless bees and honey bees. The directory is illustrated with large color photographs of preserved specimens from around the world.

The final chapter goes into the challenges currently faced by bees, including weather, climate, pests and diseases. Finally, the authors discuss some of the research initiatives aimed at helping bees and what individuals can do to help protect our bees, such as plant flowers and participate in citizen science projects. (My personal suggestion is to let your dandelions grow because they provide honey bees a meal late into fall and even early winter.)

The book is exceptionally appealing visually. Almost every page has a mix of color photographs and old-fashioned line drawings or wood cuts, with sidebars and other interesting features. Obviously, a lot of care was put into the design.

If you already know something about bees, you might be interested to find out that the book doesn't just hash over old material. For example, as Dr. Wilson-Rich also mentions in his TED Talk (see below), beekeepers are finding honey bees in urban environments, such on the rooftops of city buildings, are doing better than those in rural and suburban areas. It might seem counter-intuitive, but two out of three overwintering hives survived in the city compared to two out of five in the country. The urban honey bees also produced more honey. They have some suggestions why this may be the case, such as the cities are warmer overall and probably the honey bees are exposed to less pesticides, but the bees are also likely having less interactions with other bees that might pass diseases or compete for resources.

Bees have been in the news and people are interested in learning more about them. The Bee is a quick and easy-to-read overview of a topic that would be equally useful for the layperson who knows little about bees and the beekeeper who wants to learn about bees from a more general perspective. Be prepared for a visual treat.

Related:

You can get a taste for how passionate Dr. Wilson-Rich is in his TED talk:

 

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 24, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0691161356
ISBN-13: 978-0691161358

 

Disclosures:  The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.