Big Pacific: All About The Great White Shark

From page 14-17 of Big Pacific:

Peripatetic pilgrims of the Pacific, Great white sharks have one of the widest geographic ranges of any marine animal. Individuals migrate vast distances — even across entire ocean basins — and in the Pacific they can be found as far north as Alaska and as far south as New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands. Every year, however, a great many of these oceanic travelers congregate around La Isla Guadalupe (Guadalupe Island), 241 kilometers (150 miles) off the western coast of Mexico. First to arrive, in spring and summer, are males. The females — who generally dwarf the males — arrive in the fall. It’s thought mating occurs in the late fall, although no one has ever witnessed great whites in the act. Pregnant females spend a year or more at sea while as many as ten embryos develop inside their bodies. At birth the pups measure around a meter (3 to 4 feet). Like their parents, these youngsters disappear into the deep blue, perhaps using their remarkable ability to read the magnetic fields of the Earth’s crust to navigate their way across the ocean.

The Great White Shark. With little obvious differentiation other than the size disparity, it can be tricky to distinguish between male and female Great whites.

Unsurprisingly for such a highly evolved predator, Great white sharks are endowed with keen sensory organs. Their sense of smell — which enables them to detect a single drop of blood in 10 billion drops of water — is legendary and helps give rise to their fearsome reputation as hunters. But their vision is also good: the retina of a Great white’s eye is dually adapted for day vision and low light. Even more impressive is their ability to detect electrical currents through pores on their snouts which are filled with cells called the ampullae of Lorenzini.

Big Pacific: Passionate, Voracious, Mysterious, Violent
By Rebecca Tansley

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of Earth’s surface—more than all of the planet’s landmasses combined. It contains half of the world’s water, hides its deepest places, and is home to some of the most dazzling creatures known to science. The companion book to the spectacular five-part series on PBS produced by Natural History New Zealand, Big Pacific breaks the boundaries between land and sea to present the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants as you have never seen them before.

Illustrated in full color throughout, Big Pacific blends a wealth of stunning Ultra HD images with spellbinding storytelling to take you into a realm teeming with exotic life rarely witnessed up close—until now. The book is divided into four sections, each one focusing on an aspect of the Pacific. “Passionate Pacific” looks at the private lives of sea creatures, with topics ranging from the mating behaviors of great white sharks to the monogamy of wolf eels, while “Voracious Pacific” covers hunting and feeding. In “Mysterious Pacific,” you will be introduced to the Pacific’s more extraordinary creatures, like the pufferfish and firefly squid, and explore some of the region’s eerier locales, like the turtle tombs of Borneo and the skull caves of Papua New Guinea. “Violent Pacific” examines the effects of events like natural disasters on the development of the Pacific Ocean’s geography and the evolution of its marine life.

Providing an unparalleled look at a diverse range of species, locations, and natural phenomena, Big Pacific is truly an epic excursion to one of the world’s last great frontiers.

Learn more by watching Big Pacific, airing on select PBS affiliates this fall. Watch the trailer below:

Bird Fact Friday – Southern Carmine Bee-eater

From page 97 of Birds of Kruger National Park:

The Southern Carmine Bee-eater is a large, spectacular, long, slender, carmine-pink and teal-blue bee-eater with a long, pointed tail and black bill and facial mask. Immatures are duller than adults and lack long tail feathers. It is a common non-breeding summer migrant (December–April) to Kruger, where it can gather in large groups and often attends bush fires to feed on fleeing insects.

A mature Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides). (Photo credit: Keith Barnes & Ken Behrens)

The “trik-trik-trik” or “ga-gaga” calls, sound more guttural than those of European Bee-eater. Although not a common behaviour, Southern Carmine Bee-eaters have been recorded sitting on the backs of antelopes or Kori Bustards, swooping out and catching insects that are flushed. It specializes in catching large flying insects, including termites, cicadas, dragonflies, butterflies and locusts and regurgitates pellets of indigestible insect remains.

 

Birds of Kruger National Park
Keith Barnes & Ken Behrens

South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most iconic conservation areas in Africa. Habitats range from wide-open savannah and rugged thornveld to broadleaved mopani woodland. This microhabitat variation gives Kruger a phenomenal diversity of some 520 bird species, half of which are resident. From Africa’s most extraordinary eagles, like the scarlet-faced Bateleur, to electric-colored glossy-starlings and jewel-like finches, Kruger offers an avian celebration of form and color. It is also a crucial conservation area, supporting South Africa’s largest viable populations of vultures, eagles, and large terrestrial birds.

This field guide offers a unique window into the world of Kruger’s birds. More than 500 stunning color photographs illustrate the 259 most frequently encountered species, and a habitat-based approach assists in identification. The authoritative text provides key information about identification, habitat, behavior, biology, and conservation. The guide contains information likely to be new to even the most experienced birders, but is written in a nontechnical style that makes it accessible to anyone.

  • An essential guide to Kruger’s birds
  • Perfect for new and experienced birders alike
  • Small, portable format ideal for field use
  • Unique attractive layout with more than 500 stunning color photographs
  • Covers the 259 most frequently seen species
  • Uses a habitat-based approach to aid identification
  • Authoritative and accessible text provides key information about identification, behavior, biology, and conservation

 

Bird Fact Friday – The Wattled Jacana

From page 98 of Birds of Western Ecuador:

The Wattled Jacana is common in freshwater marshes, flooded rice paddies, ditches, and vegetated margins of lakes and sluggish rivers in the lowlands. The distinctive adult is not likely to be confused with any other species (W Ecuador birds have black scapular patches, not evident in this photo). Immature is extremely different from adult and has no similar species: it is all white below and has distinctive black-and-white head stripes.

The Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana).

The Wattled Jacana forages methodically, in singles, pairs, or scattered groups, over matted and floating vegetation, where it is generally easy to see. Flight is slow, usually low to ground, with rather stiff wingbeats, legs and long toes protruding way beyond tail; when alighting, wings are often held outstretched, showing off yellow primaries. They can be quite noisy, emitting a series of loud yapping and yelping, cackling notes and churring sounds.

Birds of Western Ecuador
By Nick Athanas & Paul J. Greenfield
With special contributions from Iain Campbell, Pablo Cervantes Daza, Andrew Spencer & Sam Woods

Western Ecuador is famed for its astonishingly diverse birdlife, from colorful hummingbirds and outrageous toucans to more difficult groups like raptors, flycatchers, and ovenbirds. Here is the ultimate photographic guide to the spectacular birds of this region. Featuring nearly 1,500 stunning color photos of 946 species, this richly detailed and taxonomically sophisticated field guide will help you with even the toughest identification challenges. Species accounts, photos, and color distribution maps appear side by side, making it easier than ever to find what you are looking for, whether you are in the field or preparing for your trip.

  • Features nearly 1,500 photos of 946 species
  • Includes facing-page species accounts, photos, and maps
  • Provides photos of multiple plumages for many species
  • Helps you to differentiate between similar species

 

 

 

Bird Fact Friday – Blyth’s Tragopan

From page 28 of A Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh:

Blyth’s tragopan is a large, brilliantly coloured game bird. It has bare yellow facial skin with a black band extending from the base of its bill to its crown. The bird has an unmarked red head, rusty-red neck and breast, and pale blue horns. Its upperparts are brownish red with many white ocelli.

 

Blyth’s tragopan (Tragopan blythii) are typically found on steep slopes in montane forest undergrowth.

Males tend to be 68 cm, while females are 59 cm and have a brown uniform with black buff and white mottling. They both also have pinkish-brown legs and white-spotted red flanks.

A Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh
By Bikram Grewal, Sumit Sen, Sarwandeep Singh, Nikhil Devasar & Garima Bhatia

This is the only comprehensive photographic field guide to the birds of the entire Indian subcontinent. Every distinct species and subspecies—some 1,375 in all—is covered with photographs, text, and maps. The guide features more than 4,000 stunning photographs, many never before published, which have been carefully selected to illustrate key identification features of each species. The up-to-date facing-page text includes concise descriptions of plumage, voice, range, habitat, and recent taxonomic changes. Each species has a detailed map reflecting the latest distribution information and containing notes on status and population density. The guide also features an introduction that provides an overview of birdlife and a brief history of ornithology in India and its neighbors. The result is an encyclopedic photographic guide that is essential for everyone birding anywhere in the subcontinent.

  • Covers all 1,375 subcontinental bird species
  • Features more than 4,000 stunning photographs to aid quick field identification
  • Includes up-to-date facing-page text and range maps
  • Contains concise descriptions of plumage, voice, habitat, and much more

Essential Reading in Natural History

Princeton University Press is excited to have a wide variety of excellent titles in natural history. From the Pacific Ocean, to horses, to moths, our books cover a range of topics both large and small. As summer winds down, take advantage of the last weeks of warm weather by bringing one of our handy guides out into the field to see if you can spot a rare butterfly or spider. To find your next read, check out this list of some of our favorite titles in natural history, and be sure to visit our website for further reading.

Britain’s Mammals by Dominic Couzens, Andy Swash, Robert Still, and Jon Dun is a comprehensive and beautifully designed photographic field guide to all the mammals recorded in the wild in Britain and Ireland in recent times.

Mammals

Horses of the World by Élise Rousseau, with illustrations by Yann Le Bris, is a beautifully illustrated and detailed guide to the world’s horses.

Horses

A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America, Second Edition, by Jeffrey Glassberg is a thoroughly revised edition of the most comprehensive and authoritative photographic field guide to North American butterflies.

Butterflies

Big Pacific by Rebecca Tansley is the companion book to PBS’s five-part mini series that breaks the boundaries between land and sea to present the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants as you have never seen them before.

Pacific

Britain’s Spiders by Lawrence Bee, Geoff Oxford, and Helen Smith is a photographic guide to all 37 of the British families.

Spiders

The second edition of Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw and David Shetlar is a revised and updated edition of the most comprehensive guide to common insects, mites, and other “bugs” found in the backyards and gardens of the United States and Canada.

Cranshaw

Last but not least, Mariposas Nocturnas is a stunning portrait of the nocturnal moths of Central and South America by famed American photographer Emmet Gowin.

Gowin

Paul Strode: Teaching The Serengeti Rules

CarrollIn January of 2016 I was asked by Laura Bonetta at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to write a teacher’s guide for the short film Some Animals Are More Equal than Others: Keystone Species and Trophic Cascades. At the same time, Molecular Biologist Sean B. Carroll, the HHMI Vice President of Science Education, was putting the finishing touches on his new book, The Serengeti Rules. To help expedite my research for writing the teacher’s guide for the short film, Laura sent me a pre-pub copy of the book and suggested I read Chapter Six: “Some Animals Are More Equal than Others.”

Instead of going straight to Chapter Six, I started reading from the beginning.

Before I was even halfway through the first chapter, I thought to myself, this book is going to change the way I teach. At the core of Carroll’s storytelling is the observation that everything is regulated, from molecules to megafauna. Indeed, for most of my career teaching biology I have kept my focus on Theodosius Dobzhansky’s argument that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” But Carroll has now made it clear that nothing in biology also makes sense except in the light of regulation.

To make a long story short, I wrote the short film teachers guide with the help of Chapter Six in The Serengeti Rules and immediately followed that task by reviewing the book for The American Biology Teacher so that other teachers might benefit from reading the book. In my review, I argued that The Serengeti Rules “should be required reading for students in all fields of science, but especially those pursuing careers in biology education.” My review caught the attention of Carroll’s editor at Princeton University Press, Alison Kalett. Alison was curious to know if teachers like me that planned to use Carroll’s book to enhance their biology courses would find it useful if educational supplementary materials were made available… for free. Alison and I came up with a plan and I began to write.

The Serengeti Rules came out in March of 2016 and one of Carroll’s first public discussions about the book was at the annual Professional Development Conference of the National Association of Biology Teachers in Providence, Rhode Island. Several hundred teachers showed up to hear from Dr. Carroll and it was standing room only. As word got out that supplementary materials were being prepared for Carroll’s book, inquiries began to pop up on social media.

Carroll

The Educational Supplement was released in May and is a document that a teacher can use immediately in the classroom.

Carroll

The questions come in various styles and are designed to invoke classroom discussion, require students to synthesize and connect various biological concepts, get students to engage with ecological data from the published journal articles, and have students analyze and graph data that relate to what they are reading in The Serengeti Rules. For example, the question below relates to Chapter Four of The Serengeti Rules, “Fat, Feedback, and a Miracle Fungus.” The question can be used as a formative assessment question that marries real data with the nature of science and covers several components of the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate biology course content.

Carroll

Teachers have already begun planning to use The Serengeti Rules to enhance their courses and since the release of the supplement have expressed their gratitude that it is available and free!

Carroll

And of course, I have assigned The Serengeti Rules as summer reading for my 65 AP/IB biology students and I am looking forward to using the questions in the fall to incite discussion and enhance learning and understanding.

Thank you, Sean B. Carroll, for giving us The Serengeti Rules!

Peter Ungar on Evolution’s Bite

UngarWe carry in our mouths the legacy of our evolution. Our teeth are like living fossils that can be studied and compared to those of our ancestors to teach us how we became human. In Evolution’s Bite, noted paleoanthropologist Peter Ungar brings together for the first time cutting-edge advances in understanding human evolution and climate change with new approaches to uncovering dietary clues from fossil teeth to present a remarkable investigation into the ways that teeth—their shape, chemistry, and wear—reveal how we came to be. Ungar recently took the time to answer some questions about his new book.

Why do paleontologists care so much about teeth? What makes them so special?

PSU: Paleontologists care about teeth because oftentimes, that’s all we’ve got of extinct species to work out details of life in the past. Teeth are essentially ‘ready-made fossils,’ about 96% mineral, so they survive the ages much better than other parts of the body. They are special because they come into direct contact with food, and can provide a bridge to understanding diet in the past. We can tease out the details by studying their size, shape, structure, wear, and chemistry. Teeth connect us to our ancestors, and them to their worlds. I like to think of nature as a giant buffet of sorts. I imagine animals bellying up to the sneeze guard on this biospheric buffet with empty plate in hand. Teeth can teach us about the choices they make; and it’s those choices that help define a species’ place in nature. As the old adage goes, you are what you eat. Teeth are important because they can help us understand relationships between animals in the past and the worlds around them, and about their—and our—evolution.

Why do we have so many problems with our teeth today? Why do we get cavities, require braces, and have impacted wisdom teeth?

PSU: Think about how extraordinary your teeth are. They have to break food, without being broken themselves, up to millions of times over your lifetime. And they have to do it built from the very same raw materials as the foods you are eating. Nature is truly an inspired engineer, and it’s remarkable they last as long and function as well as they do. But they’re not perfect. Most of us today get cavities, and many of us have crooked front teeth, and impacted wisdom teeth. This is largely because of our diets. We eat mostly soft foods, loaded with highly-processed carbohydrates, especially refined sugars. Cavities form by erosion from acids produced by plaque bacteria. Feeding those bacteria diets high in carbohydrates, especially sugars, means more cavities. Also, when we eat soft foods as children, we don’t exercise our jaws enough to stimulate the growth they need to make room for all our teeth. The result is crowded lower incisors, uppers that jut out over the lowers in the front of the mouth, and impacted third molars in the back. It’s not that our teeth are too big for our jaws, it’s that our jaws don’t grow long enough to accommodate all our teeth. Most traditional foragers that eat tougher or harder foods have longer jaws, and so don’t suffer the sorts of orthodontic problems the rest of us have.

Do other species have these problems? If not, why are we so different?

PSU: I’ve seen cavities and evidence for gum disease in some non-human primates, particularly in species that eat a lot of fleshy, sugary fruit, but they’re much rarer than in us. There are very few early human fossils that provide evidence of dental disease in our distant past either. Again, it seems to be a mismatch between our diets today, and the foods that we evolved to eat. Our teeth are not designed for hamburgers and French fries, nor to be bathed in milkshake. If you want to see evidence of that mismatch, just smile and look in a mirror.

What was your motivation for writing a popular science book?

PSU: My PhD dissertation was 654 pages, mostly focused on a quarter of a square millimeter of the surface of some incisor teeth. Most academics are so narrow in their research focus that it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. I wrote this book to give myself the big picture, to give me an appreciation of the larger context into which my own work fits. Also, no more than half a dozen people actually read my dissertation cover to cover, and that includes my mother. Academics often feel like they’re speaking, but no one is listening. I wanted to reach a larger audience. This book at first glance seems to be about teeth – but it’s really about the biospheric buffet, and how environmental change over deep time swapped out items and choices available to our distant ancestors. The take-home message is that large-scale climate swings winnowed out the pickier eaters among us, and drove our evolution. Teeth are our window through which to see it. The most important message here is that climate changes, and species have to change to accommodate or die. That’s why we’re here. It’s a timely, important lesson.

As a scientist who has spent the last three decades studying evidence for the evolution of human diet, what do you think of today’s “Paleolithic diet” trend? And what was the ancestral human diet, anyway?

PSU: I’m not a fan. I like pizza and bagels too much. Still, there’s little doubt that our ancestors did not eat such things; so it makes sense that a discordance between the foods we evolved to consume and what we fuel ourselves with today can wreak havoc on our bodies. Try putting diesel in a car built to run on regular gasoline (actually, don’t). And people do lose weight when they cut refined carbohydrates and processed sugars from their diets. We could well benefit from eating more like our Stone Age ancestors, with menus like those in some popular diet books—you know, spinach salads with avocado, walnuts, diced turkey and the like. I am not a nutritionist, and cannot speak with authority about the nutritional costs of benefits of Paleolithic diets—but I can address their evolutionary underpinnings. Think about it this way. Any diet that drains the body of fat reserves means not meeting daily caloric needs. It is difficult to believe that nature would select for us to eat only foods that don’t provide the nutrients required to maintain the body. In fact, the whole idea of the Paleolithic diet is problematic. Even if we could (and we can’t) reconstruct the glycemic load, fatty acid, macro- and micronutrient composition, acid/base balance, sodium/potassium ratio, and fiber content of foods eaten at a moment in time in the past, the information would be meaningless for planning a menu. All these nutrients varied with food availability over space and time, as items on the biospheric buffet table were swapped in and out, so focusing on a single point in our evolution is futile. We’ve been a work in progress for millions of years. What was the ancestral human diet? The question itself makes no sense.

Peter S. Ungar is Distinguished Professor and director of the Environmental Dynamics Program at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of Teeth: A Very Short IntroductionMammal Teeth: Origin, Evolution, and Diversity and Evolution’s Bite: A Story of Teeth, Diet, and Human Origins.

Horses of the World – Free downloadable poster!

We’re excited to introduce Horses of the World, a comprehensive, large-format overview of 570 breeds of domestic and extant wild horses, including hybrids between the two and between domestic breeds and other equids, such as zebras. Written by avid equestrian Élise Rousseau and encompassing every horse breed in existence, this beautifully illustrated and detailed guide covers the origins of modern horses, anatomy and physiology, variation in breeds, and modern equestrian practices. To celebrate the release of this monumental work, we’re making available a free download of a full color poster featuring a gorgeous selection of breeds.

The book, a must-have for all who are interested in horses, provides a treatment of breeds organized by country within broader geographical regions—from Eurasia through Australasia and to the Americas. Each account provides measurements (weight and height), distribution, origins and history, character and attributes, uses, and current status. Every breed is accompanied by superb color drawings—600 in total.

Download the poster here, and check this space each Tuesday for our new “Tuesday’s Trot” series.

 

Presenting the new trailer for Silent Sparks

Fireflies are beloved insects, conjurers of summer magic, but have you ever wondered exactly what is behind their flashing?  Check out the stunning trailer for our new book by biologist Sara Lewis, Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies.

Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies by Sara Lewis from Princeton University Press on Vimeo.

Noah Wilson-Rich on city beekeeping

the bee jacketNoah Wilson-Rich is an unconventional beekeeper who spends most of his time building bee hives on hundreds of buildings, including major stadiums, in nine different cities. These urban settings now support live bee populations and the environmentally friendly trend is only growing. As author of The Bee: A Natural History, Wilson-Rich establishes himself as an authority not only on the species but on conservation as well. An article on his beekeeping and speaking tour appeared recently in The Wall Street Journal.

Wilson-Rich emphasizes the urgency of preserving the bees’ population, pointing out that his urban hives are just one step in the right direction. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Wilson-Rich is researching ways to improve bee health, so he also carries test tubes to collect samples. He believes urban beekeeping is part of the solution. “Anybody who eats fruits and veggies needs bees. We have to protect our pollinators!” he says.

Wilson-Rich goes on to speak about some little known facts about bees, their habits, and what exactly makes them so uniquely necessary to humans. Read the rest of the article here.

Noah Wilson-Rich is founder and chief scientific officer of The Best Bees Company, a Boston-based beekeeping service and research organization. He is author of the book The Bee: A Natural History.

PUP celebrates National Bird Day with our most-loved birding post

Stephenson_WarblerGWarblers exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs, making them one of the most challenging birds to identify. Enter The Warbler Guide, a phenomenal field guide that assists novice and experienced birders alike in the proper identification of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you distinguish songs and calls. We also have a Warbler Guide app, with exciting new 3D graphics that let you view a bird from the exact angle you see it in the field—an ideal companion to the book.

To celebrate annual National Bird Day, we give you one of our most popular posts to date, the downloadable quick-finders from The Warbler Guide. You can enjoy some free, and in-high-demand downloads here.

Still need more birds? You might also want to check out this fabulous interview with the authors of Better Birding, George L. Armistead of the American Birding Association and Brian L. Sullivan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Both discuss how they became birders, and how it grew into an emotional, even spiritual endeavor.

Happy birding.

Why beekeeping in L.A. is a good thing, according to Noah Wilson-Rich

The BeeAccording to Noah Wilson-Rich, author of The Bee: A Natural History, bees exert an overwhelmingly positive influence, despite their bad rap as stinging pests. In his recent op ed in the Los Angeles Times, bees are efficient entities that produce “tangible benefits.” Wilson-Rich draws attention to the peculiar and outmoded 1879 ban on urban beekeeping in L.A.– a ban that has now been reversed– declaring that urban beekeeping in single-family residential zones is legal, and for good reason. He argues:

Bees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy annually in their role as pollinators of more than 100 fruit and vegetable crops. That number balloons to $100 billion globally. I won’t pretend that bees will put a dent in L.A.’s unemployment rate or add significantly to the state’s gross domestic product. But legal beekeeping would spur job creation, allowing skilled professionals to make a living by installing and maintaining beehives for residences, companies and schools.

According to Wilson-Rich, urban beehives are actually more productive than their rural counterpart. Urban beekeeping is already legal in numerous cities, including Washington D.C., Paris and New York, and he questions why Los Angeles, a city where allegedly ten bee colonies exist every square mile, fails to keep up with the valuable and safe practice or urban beekeeping.

Read the full piece in the Los Angeles Times here.

Noah Wilson-Rich is the founder and chief scientific officer of The Best Bees Company, a Boston-based beekeeping service and research organization. He is the author of The Bee: A Natural History.