Tales from the ant world

Edward O. Wilson

Book - 2020

"Summary Edward O. Wilson recalls his lifetime with ants-from his first boyhood encounters in the woods of Alabama to perilous journeys into the Brazilian rainforest." Ants are the most warlike of all animals, with colony pitted against colony. ... Their clashes dwarf Waterloo and Gettysburg," writes Edward O. Wilson in his most finely observed work in decades. In a myrmecological tour to such far-flung destinations as Mozambique and New Guinea, the Gulf of Mexico's Dauphin I...sland and even his parents' overgrown yard back in Alabama, Wilson thrillingly evokes his nine-decade-long scientific obsession with more than 15,000 ant species. Wryly observing that "males are little more than flying sperm missiles" or that ants send their "little old ladies into battle," Wilson eloquently relays his brushes with fire, army, and leafcutter ants, as well as more exotic species: the Matabele, Africa's fiercest warrior ants; Costa Rica's Basiceros, the slowest ants in the world; and New Caledonia's Myrmecia apicalis, the most endangered of them all. A personal account by one of our greatest scientists, Tales from the Ant World is an indispensable volume for any lover of the natural world"--

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Subjects
Published
New York, N.Y. : Liveright Publishing Corporation [2020]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
227 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 213-215) and index.
ISBN
9781631495564
1631495569
Main Author
Edward O. Wilson (author)
  • Of Ants and Men: Morality and Triumph
  • The Making of a Naturalist
  • The Right Species
  • Army Ants
  • Fire Ants
  • How Fire Ants Made Environmental History
  • Ants Defeat the Conquistadors
  • The Fiercest Ants in the World, and Why
  • The Benevolent Matriarchy
  • Ants Talk with Smell and Taste
  • How We Broke the Pheromone Code
  • Speaking Formic
  • Ants Are Everywhere (Almost)
  • Homeward Bound
  • Adventures in Myrmecology
  • The Fastest Ants in the World, and the Slowest
  • Social Parasites Are Colony Engineers
  • The Matabele, Warrior Ants of Africa
  • War and Slavery Among the Ants
  • The Walking Dead
  • Tiny Cattle Ranchers of Africa
  • Trapjaws versus Springtails
  • Searching for the Rare
  • An Endangered Species
  • Leafcutters, the Ultimate Superorganisms
  • Ants That Lived with the Dinosaurs.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Preeminent biologist, environmentalist, and writer Wilson elucidates his arresting, paradigm-altering ideas in books such as Genesis: The Deep Origins of Species (2019), while sharing reflections and anecdotes aimed at nurturing a love of science and the living world in more personal works such as this entertaining and eye-opening collection of brief, vivid essays. Wilson tells stories of his peripatetic, nature-focused childhood and the sense of wonder that has propelled him through decades of discoveries. He was only 13 when he found, in the vacant lot beside the house his great-grandfather built in Mobile, Alabama, the first recorded nest of invasive fire ants. Wilson is modest about his extraordinary achievements, which include deciphering how ants use pheromones to communicate, and in-depth observations of hundreds of distinct ant species and their different personalities, ranging from timid to bellicose, and astonishingly varied adaptations and strategies for survival. With exciting accounts of global expeditions and charming admissions of his abiding enthrallment to the web of life on what could be called Planet of the Ants, Wilson offers a welcome immersion in little-appreciated aspects of the biosphere. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Harvard professor emeritus Wilson ferries us from Mozambique to the Gulf of Mexico's Dauphin Island to his parents' Alabama backyard as he recalls nine decades' worth of flopping down on his belly to study 15,000 ant species. The species we meet range from Africa's battle-ready Matabele to New Caledonia's Myrmecia apicalis, which have practically vanished from this earth, and the book as a whole memorializes a distinguished career. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The father of sociobiology focuses on his first love in his latest title. Wilson (emeritus, Harvard Univ. Ctr. for the Environment) has spent most of his 90 years studying ants, from discovering fire ants in the United States to becoming the world's foremost myrmecologist. He has written many books and articles, including two Pulitzer Prize winners, The Ants and On Human Nature. But in this work, Wilson wants to inspire both adults and children to see the adventurous side of studying ants, how they communicate with one another, and how we communicate with them. He offers ideas of how to run experiments in one's kitchen and tells of some of the fiercest ants he's encountered and how to handle them. Wilson takes a meandering look at his own explorations, as he writes about his travels around the world in search of these tiny creatures, including their thousands of diverse species, from frigid mountain tops to the depths of dark caves. VERDICT Readers seeking an accessible natural history on an often-misunderstood insect will appreciate Wilson's modest, conversational tone in this brief look at his lifetime of appreciating nature's small wonders, whether found in the backyard—or in the home.—Elissa Cooper, Helen Plum Memorial Lib., Lombard, IL Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Wilson (Genesis: On the Deep Origin of Societies), a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and Harvard emeritus professor of entomology, delivers an illuminating work filled with insights into his specialty subject: ants. Hoping to "reach students—even 10 years old is not too young—interested in the prospect of a scientific career," Wilson presents his lifelong fascination with these insects, an interest that has taken him on research trips all over the globe, as an "adventure story." He explains how, in 1942, at the age of 13, he determined that the vacant lot next to his home in Mobile, Ala., held four species of ants; how in 1958, as a faculty member at Harvard, he set out to "learn the pheromone language" of fire ants; and how in 2011 he visited New Caledonia in search of the extremely rare New Caledonian bull ant, to perform one of the first "studies of rarity and extinction" involving an invertebrate. He also describes the fastest ants, the slowest ants, ants that are gardeners, and ants that are ranchers, always placing his findings in an evolutionary context. Wilson's passion for his subject, for the scientific method, and for the natural world comes through clearly in this enjoyable survey. Agent: John Taylor Williams, Kneerim & Williams. (Aug.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Summary Edward O. Wilson recalls his lifetime with ants-from his first boyhood encounters in the woods of Alabama to perilous journeys into the Brazilian rainforest. " Ants are the most warlike of all animals, with colony pitted against colony. . . . Their clashes dwarf Waterloo and Gettysburg," writes Edward O. Wilson in his most finely observed work in decades. In a myrmecological tour to such far-flung destinations as Mozambique and New Guinea, the Gulf of Mexico's Dauphin Island and even his parents' overgrown yard back in Alabama, Wilson thrillingly evokes his nine-decade-long scientific obsession with more than 15,000 ant species. Wryly observing that "males are little more than flying sperm missiles" or that ants send their "little old ladies into battle," Wilson eloquently relays his brushes with fire, army, and leafcutter ants, as well as more exotic species: the Matabele, Africa's fiercest warrior ants; Costa Rica's Basiceros, the slowest ants in the world; and New Caledonia's Myrmecia apicalis, the most endangered of them all. A personal account by one of our greatest scientists, Tales from the Ant World is an indispensable volume for any lover of the natural world"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard professor emeritus and author of Anthill shares eloquent descriptions of his natural-world encounters with ants, from his boyhood explorations in the Alabama woods to his perilous journeys into the Brazilian rainforest. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Tales from the Ant WorldAnimating his scientific observations with illuminating personal stories, Wilson hones in on twenty-five ant species to explain how these genetically superior creatures talk, smell, and taste, and more significantly, how they fight to determine who is dominant. Wryly observing that “males are little more than flying sperm missiles” or that ants send their “little old ladies into battle,” Wilson eloquently relays his brushes with fire, army, and leafcutter ants, as well as more exotic species. Among them are the very rare Matabele, Africa’s fiercest warrior ants, whose female hunters can carry up to fifteen termites in their jaw (and, as Wilson reports from personal experience, have an incredibly painful stinger); Costa Rica’s Basiceros, the slowest of all ants; and New Caledonia’s Bull Ants, the most endangered of them all, which Wilson discovered in 2011 after over twenty years of presumed extinction.Tales from the Ant World

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Edward O. Wilson recalls his lifetime with ants, from his first boyhood encounters in the woods of Alabama to perilous journeys into the Brazilian rainforest.