PUP News of the World — September 5, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


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The Passenger Pigeon

This week marked the 100th centennial of the death of the last passenger pigeon, Martha. She was living in the Cincinnati Zoo as the last living member of her species. The Financial Times‘ Matthew Engel commemorates the anniversary in a feature entitled “The extinction of the passenger pigeon.” Engel writes:

No one knows when the last great auk died. Or the last dodo. But the last passenger pigeon’s death can be dated more or less exactly: the afternoon of September 1 1914. There was something else extraordinary about this extinction. This was not some marginal species, retiring from trying to eke out an existence on a remote island or a lonely mountainside. When the white man arrived in North America, this was almost certainly the most common bird on the continent, quite possibly the most common in the world.

Some calculations suggest there were 3bn to 5bn. Others suggest there could have been up to 3bn in a single flock. This is like the extinction of the house fly. Or of grass. Or, perhaps, of the galumphing, domineering, myopic two-legged mammal whose presence did for the passenger pigeon. As the title of a centenary exhibition at the Smithsonian in Washington has it, Once There Were Billions. And then there were none.

Engel interviews PUP author Errol Fuller in this piece, and Fuller, who is a world authority on bird and animal extinction, has studied the story of Martha’s species extensively. His new book, The Passenger Pigeon, features rare archival images as well as haunting photos of live birds. Fuller shows how widespread deforestation, the demand for cheap and plentiful pigeon meat, and the indiscriminate killing of Passenger Pigeons for sport led to their catastrophic decline. Fuller provides an evocative memorial to a bird species that was once so important to the ecology of North America, and reminds us of just how fragile the natural world can be.

In a review of the book, Adrian Barnett of the New Scientist calls “visually beautiful” and writes that it “gives a fine account of the species, its biology and its demise.”

Preview the Introduction of The Passenger Pigeon.

Philosophy of Biology

Looking for an explanation of the most important topics debated by biologists today? Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Philosophy of Biology is a concise, comprehensive, and accessible introduction to the philosophy of biology written by a leading authority on the subject. The title is reviewed on Forbes.com, and John Farrell argues that “non-specialists should not be put off. Godfrey-Smith’s style is engaging, almost conversational.”

Peter Godfrey-Smith discusses the relation between philosophy and science; examines the role of laws, mechanistic explanation, and idealized models in biological theories; describes evolution by natural selection; and assesses attempts to extend Darwin’s mechanism to explain changes in ideas, culture, and other phenomena. Further topics include functions and teleology, individuality and organisms, species, the tree of life, and human nature.

Authoritative and up-to-date, Philosophy of Biology is an essential guide for anyone interested in the important philosophical issues raised by the biological sciences. Check out Chapter One of The Philosophy of Biology for yourself.

The New York Nobody Knows

Put on your walkin’ shoes — we’re off to explore New York with PUP author, William Helmreich. As a kid growing up in Manhattan, Helmreich played a game with his father they called “Last Stop.” They would pick a subway line and ride it to its final destination, and explore the neighborhood there. Decades later, Helmreich teaches university courses about New York, and his love for exploring the city is as strong as ever.

Putting his feet to the test, he decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtually every block of all five boroughs–an astonishing 6,000 miles. His epic journey lasted four years and took him to every corner of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Helmreich spoke with hundreds of New Yorkers from every part of the globe and from every walk of life, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former mayors Rudolph Giuliani, David Dinkins, and Edward Koch.

Their stories and his are the subject of his captivating and highly original book, The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City. The book is reviewed on TravelMag, and reviewer Paul Willis recalls one story of Helmreich’s many stories:

Helmreich, a sociology professor at New York’s City University (CUNY), is at his best when examining these broader demographic trends. He’s less good at giving life to the colour and flavor of the city. A New York native he grew up in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a relatively privileged neighbourhood that borders Central Park. Maybe it’s this background that gives some of his encounters with new immigrants an awkward quality, such as when he meets a Honduran man waving a flag outside a Lower Manhattan car park to alert drivers that there’s space within and then asks if he can have a go at waving the flag himself.

“’Are you okay?’ he asked, a worried tone creeping into his voice.”

Helmreich reassures the man by telling him it’s alright because he’s a professor.

You don’t need to be a professor — or even leave the comfort of your favorite reading spot — to enjoy the city of New York through The New York Nobody Knows. Truly unforgettable, the book will forever change how you view the world’s greatest city. View Chapter One of The New York Nobody Knows, and tweet us your thoughts using #NYNobodyKnows.

Fun Fact Friday: All’s Fair in Love and Chemical Warfare

Happy Friday, folks! This week’s fun fact from Arthur V. Evans’s Beetles of Eastern North America explores the astounding chemical defenses employed by Coleoptera against their enemies.

Galerita_small

This colorful little insect is called Galerita bicolor. It spends most of its life hiding under tree bark, but if it’s disturbed, it sprays a noxious stream of formic acid out of its rear-end. Yikes!

bombardier_small

And this little guy’s got an even nastier trick up his sleeve. The Narrow-necked Little Bombardier Beetle (Brachinus tenuicollis) releases a boiling mixture of hydrogen peroxide gas, hydroquines, and various enzymes. The cocktail makes an audible popping sound as it exits the insect, and can be sprayed at a predator with great accuracy. An aptly named bug if there ever was one!

Other beetles, such as lady and blister beetles, are even able to make themselves bleed in order to protect themselves. This behavior, called reflex bleeding, occurs when the startled insect exudes bright yellow or orange hemolymph (beetle blood) from the joints of their legs. The hemolymph is laced with toxic chemicals, making them unappetizing to predators.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of Fun Fact Friday, and learned one of nature’s most important lessons: think before you touch!


 

Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface [PDF]  Sample Entry [PDF]

Birds of New Guinea sneak peek (#BirdsofNewGuinea)

You’re entering the “summer is almost over” doldrums, when what should happen? Someone drops a copy of the 2nd edition of The Birds of New Guinea, fresh from the printer, one of only two of its kind in America, on your desk. This book has been hugely anticipated in the birding community for well over a decade and the final product is worth every second of that wait. These photos won’t do the book justice, but they give you an idea of what you’re in for when the books arrive in our warehouse and begin to ship later this fall.

We’ll sample some more plates in the coming weeks.

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This is a photo of the original gouache painting of the birds of paradise plate in the book above. Hopefully this photo gives you some sense of what it’s like in person.


bookjacket Birds of New Guinea:
Second Edition
Thane K. Pratt & Bruce M. Beehler
Illustrated by John C. Anderton & Szabolcs Kókay

What Good are Bees?

Wilson-Rich_theBeeMany of us are all too familiar with bees and their painful sting. They are pesky, sometimes deadly, and can manage to put a damper on a beautiful summer day.

What many of us do not realize, however, is the enormous value bees carry in various aspects of modern life including agriculture, scientific research, and even the economy.  As Noah Wilson-Rich illustrates in his comprehensive and engaging new book, The Bee: A Natural History, bees have had and will continue to have a significant impact on us extending far beyond their ability to make honey.

Economy:

According to Wilson-Rich, “In the year 2000, honey bees alone were estimated to contribute $14.6 billion to the US economy, and the worldwide figure is something like 153 billion pounds ($207 billion).” This is largely due to bees’ pollinating capabilities, especially considering that upwards of 130 fruit and vegetable crops are reliant on pollination by way of insects. Both honey and wax are valuable resources on a global stage, where wax has a variety of applications in “lubricants and polishes, in crayons and encaustic art…and in electronics.”

Bees Swarm Beemaster Beekeeper Beekeeping Ladder Protective clothing Box Catching Fruit tree InsectsFood Production/Agriculture:

Due in part to their staggering numbers–with up to 80,000 individual bees per colony–bees help drive our agricultural system. In California where over a million bee colonies reside, bees play a major role in producing almonds that are exported throughout the nation and beyond. Bees also play a role in producing animal fodder by pollinating plants like clover and alfalfa, both nutritious aspects of farm animals’ diets. In this way, bees help us to produce other dietary staples like meat and milk.

Scientific Research:

Bees can actually be trained, and some researchers are working on training bees to approach a target flower for increased pollination efficiency. Bees are also used in research pertaining to age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease because of their short life span (a few weeks to a few months), and their unique social behavior makes them valuable research subjects in areas like communication and sociology.

USDA-d2487-3Religion/Symbolic value:

Wilson-Rich outlines several ways in which the bee holds religious or symbolic significance in cultures throughout the world. For instance, there are actually several patron saints of beekeeping and saints who are symbolized by bees.  Even St. Valentine is a patron saint of beekeepers in addition to being a saint of love; it is speculated that he is connected to bees because “the sweetness of honey is metaphorically related to the sweetness of love.” In Islam, bee imagery is used to represent principles such as hard work, loyalty, and devotion whereas bees are associated with obedience and seeking guidance from a leader in the Jewish tradition. Another little known fact: the name Deborah, which comes from the Judaic name, Devorah, actually means bee in Hebrew and is linked to a prophetess who led the Jewish people from 2654 to 2694 in the Jewish calendar.

Mark your calendars, July 8th is the beekeepers’ holiday in Bulgaria. In the tradition of this celebration, a bee ceremony is performed in which six women stand around a centered “Mother Queen” and sing a song to the bees, where the six women are meant to represent the six vertices of a hexagonal beehive cell.

To learn more fascinating facts about bees and their connection to us, look for our recently published book, The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson Rich.

 

Fun Fact Friday: Thanatosis and Batesian Mimicry (Don’t Worry, We’ll Explain)

Happy Friday, everybody! It’s time for our next installment of Fun Fact Friday, with Arthur V. Evans’s latest book, Beetles of Eastern North America.

This week’s post is dedicated to (drumroll, please)…the art of playing dead.

8-13 Beetles

Did you know?

Thanatosis, or death feigning, is a behavioral strategy “employed by hide beetles (Trogidae), certain fungus-feeding darkling beetles (tenebrionidae), zopherids (Zopheridae), weevils (Curculionidae), and many others” to avoid becoming a predator’s dinner. When these beetles sense danger, they pull their legs and antennae up tightly against their bodies so that they look dead and lifeless to their enemies. These small predators lose interest in the hard, small, and unflinching beetles, and move on to their next target. Pretty cool, huh?

Batesian Mimicry is another tactic to keep from being eaten. In this case, beetles “mimic the appearance or behavior of stinging or distasteful insects,” as in the case of the flower-visiting Acmaeodera (Buprestidae), scarabs (Scarabaeidae), and longhorns (Cerambycidae). They all sport fuzzy bodies, bold colors and patterns, and behaviors to make them believable mimics of bees and wasps, and make quick and jerky movements to complete the staging. And believe you, me, neither animals nor humans want to be stung by bees – and so the predators retreat.

We hope you feel informed, and we’ll see you next Friday for another great Fun Fact!
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Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

Voice of America features Steve and Tony Palumbi and Extreme Life of the Sea during #SharkWeek

Shark week is well underway and the celebrations and glamorizations of the most famous of ocean predators continues unabated. However, as the creators of Un-Shark Week and co-authors of The Extreme Life of the Sea, Steve and Tony Palumbi know there are other fascinating marine animals that are equally deserving of your attention. In this fantastic interview with Voice of America News, they highlight some cool facts about sharks as well as other extreme creatures that have adapted to survive and thrive in the harshest environments of the ocean.

 

bookjacket The Extreme Life of the Sea
Stephen R. Palumbi & Anthony R. Palumbi
Available as an ebook and an enhanced ebook.
Explore this title:

Reviews | Table of Contents | Prologue[PDF]

Fun Fact Friday: Making Sense of Mandibles

Today’s fun fact for Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans takes an inside look at the stag beetle’s best accessory: his mandibles. Why do they have them? What do they use them for? Hold tight to find out!

Did you know? Photo Credit: Arthur V. Evans, Beetles of Eastern North America

The common name “stag beetle” refers to the large antlerlike mandibles found in some males, such as the giant stag beetle Lucanus elaphus (See middle frame at right). Mandible size within a species is “directly proportionate to the size of the body and regulated by genetic and environmental factors.”

Why do they have them?
Males use these oversized mouthparts to fight with rival males over who gets to take the lady beetle to dinner. You can find these beetles in moist habitats where there are plenty of things dying, like  a swamp. An area with decomposing wood is the ideal hideaway for these critters, since they drink tree sap and flower nectar, and munch on decaying deciduous and coniferous wood. But that’s good new for us: no home damagers here!

Bonus Fact:
The Family Lucanidae supposedly got its name when Pliny the Elder noted that Nigidius (a scholar of the Late Roman Republic and a friend of Cicero) called the stag beetle lucanus after the Italian region of Lucania, where they were turned into amulets for children. The scientific name of Lucanus cervus is the former word, plus cervus, deer.

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Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

Evans_Beetles Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041 | 560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

Fun Facts about Caribbean Wildlife

Raffaele_WildlifeCaribbeanS14Did you know…

  • Residents of colonial Cuba could be punished for insulting the Cuban Trogon, a red-breasted bird whose plumage was seen as representing the red sash worn by Spanish kings.
  • Ackee with salt fish is Jamaica’s national dish, but the fruit can be highly poisonous if harvested or cooked incorrectly
  • The earliest attempt to import breadfruit into the Caribbean was thwarted by a famous mutiny — the one on the H.M.S. Bounty, which was carrying the seedlings among its cargo.
  • You can tell which way the wind blows on a given island by looking at the coconut palm trees, which often leans in the direction of the prevailing breeze.
  • The Caribbean is home to dozens of species of bats, about half of which are endemic to the islands.
  • The Red Junglefowl found in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Grenadines is actually the feral offspring of formerly domesticated roosters and chickens.
  • Crocodiles are native to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
  • Barracudas have been known to attack divers wearing sparkly clothing, which they can mistake for prey.
  • The black grouper can grow to four feet long and change its sex from female to male.
  • The Caribbean spiny lobster can swim backwards by flipping its tail.

Whether you are traveling to the Caribbean by plane or by cruise ship, make sure you pack a copy of Wildlife of the Caribbean by Herbert A. Raffaele and James W. Wiley so you can learn more about the birds, fish, mammals, and plants you might see.

 

Credit — these fun facts were included in About.com Caribbean Travel’s review of Wildlife of the Caribbean.

Fun Fact Friday: Bizarre Mating Rituals of the Male Beetle

Ah, Friday. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of abundant spare time, rife with the possibility of reading, gardening, eating, and…listening to mating calls?

Beetle1

In this week’s edition of Fun Fact Friday, we bring you the mating rituals of the male beetle, particularly those of the Family Ptinidae.

Did you know?

In his forthcoming book, Beetles of Eastern North America, Arthur V. Evans enlightens us to the truly absurd habits of death-watch beetles, who bang their heads against the walls of their wooden galleries to lure females into their tunnels. They’re in a class of their own, however; most beetles produce sound by rubbing together two ridged or roughened surfaces in a process known as stridulation. Stridulation generally transpires “during courtship, confrontations with other beetles, or in response to other stressful situations, such as an attack by a predator.”

For the most part, beetles don’t partake in fancy wooing practices; there are no flowers or free meals to speak of. But it seems there’s some soft music and chivalry involved, after all. So now you know!

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Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

7-24 Beetles2 Beetles of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041
560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus.| eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews   Table of Contents  Preface[PDF] Sample Entry[PDF]

Celebrate National Honey Bee Day with Noah Wilson-Rich!

Noah Wilson-Rich, Ph.D., author of the upcoming The Bee: A Natural History, will be speaking at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History for National Honey Bee Day on August 16.

noah_wilson_rich_CALENDAR

Wilson-Rich has been keeping bees on Cape Cod since 2010 and maintains two apiaries in Truro, where he conducts research on experimental vaccines that could potentially improve the health of honey bees. His talk at the museum will focus on this research, as well as the role of bees on Cape Cod and the importance of honey bees in sustainable gardening. He will also discuss his business, the Best Bees Company, a service based in Boston’s South End that installs and manages hives for honey bees for businesses and residents of eastern Massachusetts.

 thebeewilson-rich  The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich

Fun Fact Friday: When Beetles Go Rogue

To celebrate the recent publication of Beetles of Eastern North America, Arthur V. Evans’s tremendously beautiful and comprehensive guide to all creatures coleopteral, we’ll be posting a new “fun fact” about beetles each week. These anecdotes won’t be limited to your standard beetle biology; they’ll surprise you, make you laugh, and wish that you’d bought the book sooner!

Did you know? 

7-24 BeetleIn this week’s edition, we’re bringing you a story all the way from Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. In a rare twist of irony, it seems that the pine tree planted to honor the memory of former Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison has been overrun and subsequently destroyed by beetles of the family Curculionidae.

7-24 HarrisonTree

While the specific type of bark beetle that bested the tree isn’t included in the Eastern edition, we won’t have to wait very long to solve this entomological enigma; Arthur V. Evans is already hard at work on part two, aptly titled Beetles of Western North America

So, now you know: if you’re looking for a self-sustaining weed-wacker, look no further than the beetles in your backyard!

Photo credit: Breakingnews.ie

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Arthur V. Evans is the author of:

7-24 Beetles2 Beetles of Eastern North America
Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691133041
560 pp. | 8 x 10 | 1,500+ color illus. 31 line illus. | eBook | ISBN: 9781400851829 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]  Sample Entry[PDF]

A Look at De-Extinction on TED Radio Hour

What if you could bring an extinct animal back to life? This week on the TED Radio Hour, Guy Raz interviews Stewart Brand, an environmentalist and founder of The WELL and the Global Business Network. Brand says that we now have technology that is advanced enough to bring back extinct creatures like the passenger pigeon, a bird that became extinct when the last member, Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo. This year marks the centennial anniversary of Martha’s death and the extinction of her species.

This NPR segment, entitled “The Hackers” takes us to visit Martha in her resting place at the Smithsonian Institute. Brand discusses how DNA taken from Martha’s remains can be inserted into the DNA sequence of a related species, the band-tailed pigeon. More from Brand in his TED Talk below.

Check out Brand’s section of this week’s TED Radio Hour as well as the full broadcast.

Curious to know more about Martha? PUP author Errol Fuller discusses the extinction of her species in his new book, THE PASSENGER PIGEON. This stunningly illustrated book also tells the astonishing story of North America’s passenger pigeon, a bird species that–like the Mammoth and the Dodo–has become one of the great icons of extinction.

For a look at another extinct species that Brand mentions, the tylacine, take a look at photos from LOST ANIMALS, another book by Errol Fuller. The New York Times ran a photo slideshow here of rare photos of extinct animals.

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