Cloth $27.50 ISBN: 9780226163611 Published September 2014
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226163758 Published September 2014

Planet of the Bugs

Evolution and the Rise of Insects

Scott Richard Shaw

Scott Richard Shaw

256 pages | 12 color plates, 31 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $27.50 ISBN: 9780226163611 Published September 2014
E-book $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226163758 Published September 2014
Dinosaurs, however toothy, did not rule the earth—and neither do humans. But what were and are the true potentates of our planet? Insects, says Scott Richard Shaw—millions and millions of insect species. Starting in the shallow oceans of ancient Earth and ending in the far reaches of outer space—where, Shaw proposes, insect-like aliens may have achieved similar preeminence—Planet of the Bugs spins a sweeping account of insects’ evolution from humble arthropod ancestors into the bugs we know and love (or fear and hate) today.

Leaving no stone unturned, Shaw explores how evolutionary innovations such as small body size, wings, metamorphosis, and parasitic behavior have enabled insects to disperse widely, occupy increasingly narrow niches, and survive global catastrophes in their rise to dominance. Through buggy tales by turns bizarre and comical—from caddisflies that construct portable houses or weave silken aquatic nets to trap floating debris, to parasitic wasp larvae that develop in the blood of host insects and, by storing waste products in their rear ends, are able to postpone defecation until after they emerge—he not only unearths how changes in our planet’s geology, flora, and fauna contributed to insects’ success, but also how, in return, insects came to shape terrestrial ecosystems and amplify biodiversity. Indeed, in his visits to hyperdiverse rain forests to highlight the current insect extinction crisis, Shaw reaffirms just how crucial these tiny beings are to planetary health and human survival.

In this age of honeybee die-offs and bedbugs hitching rides in the spines of library books, Planet of the Bugs charms with humor, affection, and insight into the world’s six-legged creatures, revealing an essential importance that resonates across time and space.
 
Publishers Weekly
"Shaw’s detailed investigation places the broad classifications of ancient and modern insects in the context of their development, and, by showing specifics of coevolution, he makes a strong case for valuing the interconnectedness of all life."
Library Journal
“Shaw tackles evolution from the perspective of the insects, a refreshing and insightful change from the usual human-centered view, and argues convincingly that insects have diversified and thrived more successfully than any other animal on Earth. . . . Shaw's coherent, precise writing is complemented by pleasing illustrations of insects and fossils. . . . A readable, compact introduction for the layperson.”
Tiffany Taylor, University of Reading | Times Higher Education
“Behind the witty prose lies a serious message. The triumph of insects is inseparably connected to the success and progression of almost all life on the planet in some way or another. Insects have coevolved with plants and animals and can act as friend or foe, spanning all lifestyles from predator to parasite to pollinator. So entangled are they in the fate of many cornerstone species that the decline of insect groups has put many ecosystems at risk of collapse, including several that are crucial for human survival. We may be somewhat flippant about their influence on our own evolutionary history, but we can be sure that the demise of insects would have catastrophic consequences for our future. . . . Eloquent and very knowledgeable, Shaw is also, perhaps more importantly when it comes to a good read, a storyteller capable of painting a rich portrayal of prehistoric lands filled with weird and wonderful bugs and beasts. His captivating and comical writing had me marveling at detailed accounts of giant dragonfly-like beasts with two-foot wingspans, and laughing out loud at aptly named sections such as ‘Secretive societies with an anal fixation.’ I am not, it is fair to say, a lover of things that creep and crawl, but looking through Shaw’s eyes, I found myself appreciating their place in my world a little more. Moreover, as he made me realize, it is not my world at all, but theirs.”
Daniella Martin | author of "Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects"
“A fascinating peek under the mantle of the ‘known world,’ revealing a minute, clicking-and-whirring mechanism manned largely by bugs. I learned SO much from this book.”
Mark W. Moffett, Smithsonian Institution | author of "Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions"
“Shaw’s Planet of the Bugs is the most eloquent and passionate book on insects in a generation.”
Michelle Harvey | Deakin University, Australia
“A detailed and intriguing journey through the evolution of insects, following their development from single-celled organisms through to the elaborate and fascinating beasts that now dominate almost every niche on the planet. Shaw writes in an engaging style that is almost that of thinking out loud, conversing with his reader much as he presumably would over a cup of coffee, and he makes evolution a tangible process, exposing some of the more peculiar and less well-known features of our six-legged relatives.”
Dena M. Smith | University of Colorado at Boulder
“A very enjoyable read. Planet of the Bugs is packed full of really great information from a unique ‘buggy’ perspective and is done with humor and fun.”
Contents
Prologue. Time Travel with Insects
 
1. The Buggy Planet
2. Rise of the Arthropods
The Cambrian period, 541–485 million years ago, and the Ordovician period, 485–444 million years ago
3. Silurian Landfall
The Silurian period, 444–419 million years ago
4. Six Feet under the Moss
The Devonian period, 419–359 million years ago
5. Dancing on Air
The Carboniferous period, 359–299 million years ago
6. Paleozoic Holocaust
The Permian period, 299–252 million years ago
7. Triassic Spring
The Triassic period, 252–201 million years ago
8. Picnicking in Jurassic Park
The Jurassic period, 201–145 million years ago
9. Cretaceous Bloom and Doom
The Cretaceous period, 145–66 million years ago
10. Cenozoic Reflections
The Cenozoic era, 66 million years ago to the present day
Postscript. The Buggy Universe Hypothesis
 
Acknowledgments
About the Author
Notes
Suggested Reading
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style |

Chicago Blog: Biology

Events in Biology

Keep Informed

JOURNALs in Biology