New photographic technologies reveal insects as never seen before.
Insects are the largest and most diverse group of animals, yet their world is often hidden. This spectacular book provides a rare and intimate view of the bizarre beauty of many overlooked creatures and their habitats.
Michael Chinery describes the natural science of insects -- their life cycles, camouflage and defense, predators and prey, and habitats. Over 250 spectacular color photographs, many taken in the wild by the author, use scanning electron micrograph (SEM) technology at super-magnifications and high speed to show in astonishing detail the fantastical shapes and remarkable lives of insects from around the world. Examples are:
Amazing Insects is an outstanding reference, engrossing in its detail and remarkable in its wide coverage.
Michael Chinery is a leading writer on insects. He studied zoology, geology, botany and anthropology at Cambridge University and has been involved in the television series BBC Wildlife. His many books include Collins Field Guide to Insects. He lives in England.
A small boy was once heard to ask his mother who made the flies that were crawling on the window of a bus on which they were travelling. On being told that God made them, he remarked that it must be a fiddly job to make a fly! Although it is doubtful if he knew anything about a fly's anatomy, it was a perceptive observation. A fly, even the smallest of species, is a incredibly complex creature. It has legs and wings with which to get about, a digestive system to deal with its food, muscles and nerves -- including a brain -- to control everything, and, of course a reproductive system to ensure that more flies of the same kind appear in due course: a fiddly job indeed, but the wizardry of the double helix that is DNA guarantees that a house-fly's eggs, for example, develop into more house-flies and not into bluebottles. DNA is the essence of the genes that are contained within each cell of the body and ensure that each and every feature, however miniscule or intricate, develops in the correct way for each species.
Although each species has its own brand of DNA, ensuring that organisms have the right number of bits and behave in the right way, this does not mean that each individual of a species has exactly the same genetic make-up. Offspring receive a set of genes from each parent, and these genes can combine in different ways to produce slight differences in the offspring. Among the insects these differences might involve eye-colour or wing length, increased cold-hardiness, better camouflage, or an improved ability to attract a mate. The changes from one generation to the next are usually extremely small, but if they are even the slightest benefit to those individuals exhibiting them they have a good chance of being passed on to future generations. Over millions of years and millions of generations these tiny changes can add up to big differences, and this is the basis of evolution that has led to the amazing variety of plant and animal life that we see around us today.
Insect life is particularly varied, for there are well over a million known species -- and probably even more still unknown -- and they occupy just about every possible habitat on the planet, although very few insects have managed to invade the open sea. Virtually every kind of plant or animal matter is eaten by some insect or other, and the insects have evolved an equally wide range of feeding methods and equipment. Insects have also adopted many different ways of getting about and escaping from their enemies. Many build elaborate homes, and the majority exhibit almost magical transformations during their life cycles.
The photographs in this book, some of them taken at very high magnifications, illustrate something of the incredible complexity of insect anatomy, and also reveal much of the insects' fascinating behaviour, which is just as much a part of a species' make-up as its physical appearance and has contributed just as much to the success of the insects.