Fabulous finds

I was browsing my favorite used bookstore in Boca the other day (I say “my favorite,” but actually, I think it’s the only used bookstore in Boca. Nevertheless.) when I ran across four volumes in the Florida’s Fabulous… series. I pounced on them the way a tiger beetle pounces on other beetles, or a robber fly pounces on a bee, even though paying full price for these large format mass market volumes wouldn’t break the bank.

Mark Deyrup, the author of Florida’s Fabulous Insects, is another of those entomological writers who proves how one can relate charming stories in an engaging way. (Thomas Eisner and E.O. Wilson being the modern flagbearers of this writing style that goes back at least as far as Darwin, the beetle-lover. May Berenbaum comes to mind as well.) I was going to quote you some, but then I discovered that I would pretty much have to just blog the entire book, which isn’t cool.

So I won’t be able to show you quotes like this one:

So varied are the Hymenoptera, that there are no simple features that label its members at a glance, except perhaps the possession of two pairs of transparent wings, the forewings much larger than the hind wings. This is one of those classroom distinctions that is wonderfully obvious in diagrams, but not at all obvious out in the garden. (138)

Or this one:

Studies of Florida Hymenoptera are still in a pioneering stage, and even guesses about the number of species in the state have a wild and wooly quality: probably more than 3,000; probably less than 6,000. More than 1,000 species have been found on the Archbold Biological Station in south-central Florida, so there can be masses of species even at a single site. All specialists working on groups of Hymenoptera find species unknown to scientists when they begin working in Florida. (138–9)

Or this one:

Florida has many more species of horse and deer flies than most people realize, largely because one squashed fly looks rather like another. There are about 100 species in Florida. (124)

Well, my unofficial quote limit is three, so that’s all you get. If you want more, go to any bookstore in Florida and you can find a new copy; I was just excited because I found this one at a discount in a used store. And I think I met the author several years ago when I visited Archbold in the company of an astronomer friend of mine who works there… So, yay me! (Where can you say yay me, if not your own blog?)

Florida's Fabulous Insects

Florida’s Fabulous Insects, by Mark Deyrup


Deyrup, Mark. (2000). Florida’s Fabulous Insects. Tampa, FL: World Publications.

UPDATE: After joining Odonata Central, I discovered that back issues of their newsletter, Argia, are open to the public. So I thought I’d add this review of the book by none other than Sidney Dunkle. It appears in Argia: The News Journal of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas, 12:2, 20 July 2000, pp. 16-17:


Book review by Sid Dunkle, Plano, TX.

This, one of the most beautiful insect books I have seen, is a large-format, soft-cover book, filled cover to cover with color photos. The principal author is Mark Deyrup, a very knowledgeable entomologist, from whom I learned interesting snippets of information throughout the 169 pages of the book. The Odonata are covered on pages 6 to 25, including 54 color photos oftarvae and adults. The book, published in 2000, has already had 3 printings, and courtesy of editor Tim Ohr, I was able to correct nearly all of the (few) errors that were present in the odonate chapter of the second printing. Some of the odonate photos were posed, some were not. A few of the posed photos are misleading, namely: 1) Three dragonflies are shown perched on flowers, which they rarely do, 2) One female Erythemis simplicicollis is shown eating another as they face each other, and 3) Tramea onusta is shown eating a honeybee, although I have no records of such large prey for this species. My only other objection is that scientific names of species are not given, although the reader will be able to identify nearly all the photos of adult odonates by referencing my Florida field guides.

[Updated to correct a couple of typos. Sorry!]

More books

Berkeley’s best book store, Moe’s, is probably the best book store in the world. I’ve been to many a book store, in London, Los Angeles, Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris, Boston,  New Delhi, Portland, and New York, and I still think Moe’s is the best. The Strand in Manhattan may be bigger, and Powell’s, in Portland and environs may have more branches and a better web presence, but I always seem to come back more heavily laden from Berkeley than I do from anywhere else in the world. From this latest haul (trip report still to come):

  • Seabirds of the World: The Complete Reference, by Jim Enticott (Stackpole, 1997). Not as much detail as either of Harrison’s books on seabirds, or as good reading as Rich Stallcup’s Ocean Birds of the Nearshore Pacific, but an interesting large-format book.
  • Sealife: A Complete Guide to the Marine Environment, by Geoffrey Waller, Marc Dando, and Michael Burchett (Smithsonian, 1996).
  • Biophilia, by E.O. Wilson (Harvard UP, 1986).
  • Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky, by Jay Holberg (Springer, 2007).
  • The Book of the Moon, by Rick Stroud (Walker, 2009). An ambitious book by an amateur, it compiles an amazing amount of source material into one volume, and it’s pitched at a good level: not too technical for laymen, and not (too) insulting to informed amateurs. One giant hole in the bibliography though: no notice taken of Charles Wood’s Modern Moon, by far the best introduction to the moon for amateur astronomers.
  • Deep-Sky Companions: The Messier Objects, by Stephen James O’Meara. (Reprinted with corrections, Cambridge UP, 2000).
  • Life in the Undergrowth, by David Attenborough. (BBC Books, 2005).
  • The hardcover boxed set of Lord of the Rings released in 2002 in conjunction with Peter Jackson’s film of the trilogy. I finally gave up trying to find the 1988 edition at a reasonable price, and when Moe’s had it for $50, I was sold. (Of course, it turns out all I had to do was check Amazon; they had the set I was looking for $40. But then I wouldn’t be supporting independent local booksellers, now, would I?)

Who knows when I’ll get a chance to read through this haul, but at least I have some good long reads to look forward to!

Why Herptiles? Some recent books…

If you’re like me, you might never have really wondered why the word herptile was invented. After all, “Reptiles and Amphibians” is easy enough to say. And besides, “reptiles” aren’t such a simple class, anyway: lots of reptiles have no business being included in the class Reptilia. Until recently, though, no one like me has really had to care about this, because until recently there hasn’t been anything like the slew of high-quality books about the herpetofauna of North America, and particularly of the Southeast, where I live, that has recently hit the market. Read more

Just back from California

Will update the blog tomorrow, we hope. Still processing everything that happened; organizing photos, etc. To come: Pinnipeds, Pinheads, and Books Galore (that’s one entry each, not one entry with a funky title).

Reading two books right now, with several in the queue:

Anathem (Neal Stephenson)
Feathered Dinosaurs (Schouten and Long; read Darren Naish’s review)

On deck:
The Dinosauria (Weishampel et al.)
Your Inner Fish (Neil Shubin)
A Plague of Frogs (William Souder)

There are even more in the pile, but I can’t even count them yet… One that’s in the wish list is Holtz and Rey’s Dinosaurs, just out last year. I’ll need it to counterbalance Weishampel’s quite technical Dinosauria.

UPDATE: Here’s the complete list, just for historical interest:

My post-Christmas reading list:
Feathered Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs: A Very Short Introduction
Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life
A Plague of Frogs
The Superorganism
Caterpillars of Eastern North America
The Snoring Bird
Soil in the Garden
The Plant Hunters
Universe: The Definitive Visual Guide
National Geo’s Eastern and Western guides
Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds of North America
Voyages of Discovery
Voyage of the Turtle

Library books:
Rex Appeal
So Excellente a Fishe
Sea & Coastal Birds of North America