Top Books of 2012: Zoology

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These are books about animals. Some are layman-oriented, others are complete academic texts, so your mileage may vary. And with this post, the Top Books of 2012 comes at an end… but the series continues tomorrow with the real meat: the top discoveries of 2012, outlined in a total of 11 posts.

  1. Cardé & Resh (eds.). A World of Insects: The Harvard University Press Reader. (Harvard University Press)
978-0-674-04619-1-frontcover This is an excellent anthology of some of the groundbreaking studies in entomology. It’s compiled not for the entomologist, but for the layman, so it’s also very accessible. If you’re at all interested in insects, or have children who are into nature, or are a science/biology teacher, this books is perfect for you.

  1. Hughes, Brodeur & Thomas (eds.). Host Manipulation by Parasites. (Oxford University Press)
host-manipulation-by-parasites Who doesn’t think behaviour-manipulating parasites are awesome? No reader of this blog, I can guarantee that based on readership statistics of this post. This book is an authoritative review of the phenomenon, written by leading researchers, with the contributions of behavioural ecologists to help integrate the organismal, neurobiological, and evolutionary aspects with behavioural and ecological aspects of this sort of parasitism. It’s academically-oriented, but if you can get through my posts, you should have no problems reading the book. And I really do recommend it, because the subject matter is absolutely lovely.

  1. Brunetta & Craig. Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating. (Yale University Press)
spider-silk-evolution-and-400-million-years-of-spinning-waiting-snagging-and-mating A 2012 paperback release of a 2010 hardback, this book is worth re-advertising because it’s really great. If you’ve ever wondered about the diversity of silk in spiders, the myriad different uses of silk in spiders, and just how silk use has evolved to fulfil all these uses, then this book is exactly what you need. Highly recommended for any arachnophiliac of any level.

  1. Gould & Gould. Animal Architects: Building and the Evolution of Intelligence. (Basic Books)
animal-architects-building-and-the-evolution-of-intelligence One of my favourite pet topics is animal intelligence (e.g.). If you’re also interested in it, then you should look into getting this book. It’s a compendium of architecture produced from all over the animal kingdom, examined in the light of behavioural biology and intelligence.

  1. Land & Nilsson. Animal Eyes. (2d ed.; Oxford University Press)
animal-eyes An excellent resource for anyone interested in anatomy and sensory physiology. All types of animal eyes are  detailed in this book, along with their efficiency and nervous integration (how they’re used to make images), and evolutionary histories. It’s written by two leading authorities on the subject, so if you want a comprehensive overview of animal vision, this is it.

  1. Fortey. Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind. (Knopf)
horseshoe-crabs-and-velvet-worms-the-story-of-the-animals-and-plants-that-time-has-left-behind This book is a natural history of various “living fossils” – not to worry, the fallacies of the term “living fossil” are explained in the book. Written by Richard Fortey, a veteran invertebrate palaeontologist who’s written a lot of other popular science books, all of which rank among my favourites. I could quibble that this one is a bit low on science compared to his other books, but it’s still a wonderful read.

  1. Sagarin. Learning From the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease. (Basic Books)
sagarain-learning-from725e Whenever people ask me what the point to being a zoologist is, or what the purpose of my research is, I struggle for an answer – I’m one of those hedonistic scientists, doing science just for the sake of satisfying my curiosity and thirst for knowledge. After reading this book, I don’t have to make stuff up anymore. Sagarin goes through various adaptations that organisms have, and uses them as inspiration for suggestions on how to improve our own ways of doign things in politics, security, and much more. It’s a light-hearted book, not an academic one, so I fully recommend it for an easy and fun read.

  1. Waldbauer. How Not to Be Eaten: The Insects Fight Back. (University of California Press)
how-not-to-be-eaten-the-insects-fight-back From hiding to playing dead to spitting acid to blowing themselves up, insects have many ways to defend themselves – and their predators have coevolved to dispatch those defences. This book is all about this fascinating stuff, and is aimed at the lay public, so get it if you want interesting tales and factoids from the world of insect natural history.

  1. Weis. Walking Sideways: The Remarkable World of Crabs. (Cornell University Press)
80140100864250L I know for a fact, from eating together with lesser beings who have not studied invertebrate zoology, that there is a huge demand for general books about invertebrate groups, similar to the myriad ones we have for charming vertebrates. This one covers it for crabs. Aimed at the lay reader, it goes through all the basics of crab biology and ecology. Reading it is like having a seafood lunch/dinner with me. It’s also suitable for more advanced readers, since it has a good literature list.

  1. Krasnov. Functional and Evolutionary Ecology of Fleas: A Model for Ecological Parasitology. (Cambridge University Press)
functional-and-evolutionary-ecology-of-fleas-a-model-for-ecological-parasitology A 2008 hardback re-published in 2012 as a paperback. My list, my rules: this counts as a new book. It’s all about fleas, but using them as a case study for the evolutionary and ecological aspects of parasitology. So it’s really of interest to anyone whos tudies parasitology. It’s an academic textbook though, not quite easy reading for a non-biologist.

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