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These are all invertebrate zoology books. It was very tough to choose the top 5, so do check out the runners up.
Despite its age, Grimaldi & Engel’s Evolution of the Insects continues to be the best reference work on the evolution of insects. But it is an academic work, a reference work. Planet of the Bugs is its unofficial readable companion, charting the rise of the insects from their Cambrian arthropodan roots through their various diversification bursts to today’s unparalleled dominance. A great book for any age, to learn about the history of life on Earth.
One of my clearest memories is a quick conversation with my old supervisor, in the hallway late at night, after everybody else had left the institute. I told him about my plans for a new whole-body morphometry approach and how I planned to test it on insects, since they’re so variable in shape and size. His reaction was a typical scoffing laugh and my dream was shattered (well, modified extensively).
Turns out that in my zoological naivety, I had overlooked that when it comes to morphological variety, insects may be impressive when compared to vertebrates and most other invertebrates, but they are absolutely pathetic when compared to crustaceans. Crustaceans truly come in all shapes and sizes and are the true embodiment of arthropodan modularity – you can find just about every combination of traits and features in them… and that goes for both the adults and the larvae, which are completely different to each other.
This volume is an excellent reference on all aspects of their larval biology, from anatomy to ecology and behaviour. A must-have for any carcinologist, planktologist, or marine biologist.
When it comes to entomology textbooks, I have an undying love for Gillott’s Entomology. While still enormously useful, some parts do start to show their age, which is where Gullan & Cranston’s The Insects comes in. This is the latest edition, and continues the tradition of providing a readable, up-to-date introduction to entomology. Richly illustrated, pedagogically top-notch, I recommend this to anyone with an interest in insects, professional or non-professional. Great front cover to boot.
Entomologists are never cool, unless they’re forensic entomologists (an adage that works with any other potentially forensic discipline). Because of the absurdly specific needs of some insects, their presence at a crime scene can allow us to pinpoint time of death (from the assemblage of insects, or the presence of specific larval stages) and place of death. An icky job, but it probably pays better than most other entomology careers. This book provides you with all the info you need to get started on a forensic entomology path, from the important insects to know about to why they’re at a crime scene in the first place.
Putting this book here is an injustice to its true breadth, as it goes far beyond planarian neuroanatomy. In fact, that’s only the third part of the book. Part 1 goes through the scientific method and part 2 through general neuroscience and pharmacology. Part 4 links planarians to the rest of the animals and explores why and how they’re so useful as model organisms.
This is a pretty remarkable book. Extremely readable for a lay audience, yet providing more than enough depth for an advanced undergraduate looking to specialise in planarians or comparative neuroscience. The first two broad parts may seem irrelevant or tacked on, but they are a critical aspect of the book, as its goal is not only to educate about flatworms, but to inspire us into becoming better scientists. Kudos to Pagán’s writing.
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