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Life Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Evolution of the Insects by David Grimaldi, Michael S. Engel (Cambridge University Press) Insects are the most diverse group of organisms to appear in the 3-billion-year history of life on Earth, and the most ecologically dominant animals on land. This book chronicles, for the first time, the complete evolutionary history of insects: their living diversity, relationships, and 400 million years of fossils. Whereas other volumes have focused on either living species or fossils, this is the first comprehensive synthesis of all aspects of insect evolution. Current estimates of phylogeny are used to interpret the 400-million-year fossil record of insects, their extinctions, and radiations. Introductory sections include the living species, diversity of insects, methods of reconstructing evolutionary relationships, basic insect structure, and the diverse modes of insect fossilization and major fossil deposits. Major sections cover the relationships and evolution of each order of hexapod. The book also chronicles major episodes in the evolutionary history of insects: their modest beginnings in the Devonian, the origin of wings hundreds of millions of years before pterosaurs and birds, the impact that mass extinctions and the explosive radiation of angiosperms had on insects, and how insects evolved the most complex societies in nature.

Evolution of the Insects is beautifully illustrated with more than 900 photo- and electron micrographs, drawings, diagrams, and field photographs, many in full color and virtually all original. The book will appeal to anyone engaged with insect diversity: professional ento­mologists and students, insect and fossil collectors, and naturalists.

Grimaldi has traveled in 40 countries on 6 continents collecting and studying recent species of insects and conducting fossil excavations. He is the author of Amber: Window to the Past and is Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at New York's American Museum of Natural History, as well as an adjunct professor at Cornell University, Columbia University, and the City University of New York.

Engel has visited numerous countries for entomological and paleontological studies, focusing most of his field work in Central Asia, Asia Minor, and the Western Hemisphere. In addition to his positions as Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Associate Curator in the Division of Entomology of the Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas, he is a Research Associate of the American Museum of Natural History and a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London.

David Grimaldi and Michael S. Engel have collectively published more than 250 scientific articles and monographs on the relationships and fossil record of insects, including 10 arti­cles in the journals Science, Nature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Excerpt: Writing a book on a subject as vast as the evolution of the most diverse lineage of organisms had one simple justification for us: it was needed. Having taught Insect Diversity and Insect Systematics at the City University of New York, Columbia Uni­versity, Cornell University, and the University of Kansas, we became acutely aware of a gaping hole in entomology. No vol­ume integrates the unprecedented diversity of living and extinct insects, particularly within the evolutionary frame-work of phylogeny. Some excellent texts, popular books, and field guides cover insect identification, structure, and living diversity, as well as physiology, behavior, and general biology, of which The Insects of Australia (Naumann, 1991 a) is perhaps the best example. For our lectures to students we thus found ourselves pulling an extremely scattered literature together. Instead of trudging through the insect families - interesting as they are - we found that students were fascinated by an approach of folding Recent insect diversity into one large con-text of phylogeny, biogeography, ecology, and the fossil record. The big picture engaged them. After four years of intensive literature research and writing, study and imaging of important museum specimens, and thousands of figures, we like to think we've succeeded in our goal.

Our approach to the volume was tempered by our own experience and interests with fossil insects. Entomologists typically ignore fossils, and since we too work on speciose groups of living insects, we have always been intrigued by the dismissiveness of most entomologists. Why ignore such illu­minating parts of evolutionary history? We hope that this book will reveal to our colleagues the significance, and even esthetics, of insect fossils. There are several comprehensive treatments of the insect fossil record, particularly the hexapod section of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (Carpenter, 1992) and the more recent History of Insects by Rasnitsyn and Quicke (2002). But these volumes are devoted entirely to fossil insects, so something more inclusive, and accessible, was needed.

Compiling a book like this is humbling, not only because of the scope of the subject, but also because discoveries and new work reported every month in paleontology and insectsystematics continually revise the field. As this book was nearing completion, for example, two large projects were launched. One of these is the U.S. National Science Founda­tion's Tree of Life project, which seeks to examine the phy­logeny of major groups of organisms using all existing data and vast new morphological and DNA data. The other is the Dresden conference on insect phylogeny, which met for the first time in 2003 (e.g., Klass, 2003), and which is intended to meet every few years. Like the insects themselves, our under-standing is thus evolving. As more genes become sequenced for hundreds more species of insects, for example, phylogenetic hypotheses will be revised, or at least discussed. But, thirty years ago a book like this would have been very differ­ent and much slimmer. Our knowledge of insect relation-ships has advanced tremendously over this period of time, and dozens of spectacular fossil deposits of insects have been discovered. Tomorrow's discoveries will reinforce, revise, and entirely redefine our present knowledge, but one needs to start somewhere. The optimal moment is always elusive. We hope that thirty years from now - indeed, twenty - much of what we present here will not fall far from the mark. Should we be so fortunate, new editions of this volume will attempt to keep abreast of developments.

Working at the American Museum of Natural History has also given us a keen appreciation for appealing to the nascent naturalist and scientist, not only to the landed professional. We were very deliberate in developing a volume that would be visually engaging to insect and fossil collectors, general naturalists, botanists, and other biologists, as well as to stu­dent and professional entomologists. Although we tried to avoid the thick jargon of entomology and systematics, it was not entirely avoidable (some of the jargon is useful), and we hope our colleagues will understand this was done deliber­ately to make the subject more digestible. The nearly 1,000 images were also included to make the book more engaging. Should the images and captions whet the reader's appetite, a healthy meal of text is also available.

Circadian Physiology 2nd Edition with CD-ROM by Roberto Refinetti (CRC Press) Long before Apollo 11 blasted off for the moon, astronauts Neil Armstrong, "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins simulated actual space conditions to prepare their bodies for the long voyage to earth's only natural satellite. And before some U.S. professional athletes compete on another continent, they alter their eating and sleeping patterns to adapt themselves for the shift in time zones. Practices such as these are all related to the regulation of the human body's biological rhythms, which are controlled by the 'body clock'.Circadian Physiology highlights the basic processes and latest research findings in circadian biology, and describes how this knowledge applies to the prevention of jet lag and the malaise associated with shift work, the treatment of sleep disorders and depression, the timing for effective administration of medicines, and the planning of astronaut schedules for space exploration.Targeted at life scientists who are not specialists in biological rhythms, the book is also accessible to general readers who have an interest in scientific issues and their applicability to health and business problems. To provide the in-depth understanding of circadian phenomena required for the analysis of actual research data, the author has included software for data analysis and simulation that will allow readers to put into practice the formal knowledge acquired through the disciplinary chapters. With its accessible, up-to-date review of scientific and medical advances, Circadian Physiology is a valuable addition to the growing field of circadian biology.

While the first edition of the critically acclaimed and highly popular Circadian Physiology offered a concise but rigorous review of basic and applied research on circadian rhythms, this newest edition provides a powerful resource that brings clarity to this cutting-edge science. Maintaining the same multidisciplinary approach of the first edition, this volume provides a thorough grounding in a broad range of topics, while offering many unique advantages. It not only updates the original, but it also presents many recent findings, such as the discovery of new retinal photoreceptors, the identification of several non-hypothalamic circadian pacemakers, and the elucidation of genomic and proteomic mechanisms of biological timing.

*      Includes:730 figures and 5,000 bibliographic reverences

*      Presents review summaries, suggestions for further readings, directions to pertinent web sites, and optional exercises

*      Includes a CD-ROM with programs that offer practical experience in data analysis, as well as tutorials and simulation programs

*      Contains a comprehensive Dictionary of Circadian Physiology that also translates key terminology into eight foreign languages

*      Reviews essential principles in physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, neuroscience, statistics, computer science, and the philosophy of science needed to comprehend the various chapters

It has been 6 years since the publication of the first edition of Circadian Physiology. Based on sales figures and comments from readers, it seems clear that the hook achieved its goal of serving as a concise but rigorous review of basic and applied research on circadian rhythms. Its accessible language and minimal requirement of background knowledge have allowed it to serve both as a brief handbook for experienced life scientists expanding their research efforts into the study of circadian rhythms and as a short textbook for undergraduate and graduate students.

Several excellent books on circadian rhythms have been published in the past 6 years. Some are very readable but are targeted at general audiences that have no interest in physiological or molecular mechanisms. Others are very rigorous in content hut lack a comprehensive cover-age of the field or adopt a writing style inaccessible to nonspecialists and students. Circadian Physiology remains the only hook in press that successfully combines thorough and detailed coverage with an accessible writing style, providing a truly integrated view of the discipline that only a single-author book can achieve.

This second edition of Circadian Physiology not only updates the material covered in the original one      incorporating many new experimental findings, such as the discovery of new retinal photoreceptors, the identification of several non-hypothalamic circadian pacemakers, and the elucidation of genomic and proteomic mechanisms of biological timing but also expands its scope. With 184 pages and 13 figures. The first edition had to omit much of the detailed information required for the acquisition of in-depth knowledge of the field. The present edition, with over 700 pages. 700 figures, and 5,000 bibliographic references can aspire to be a true handbook of circadian physiology without giving up the important features of accessible language and minimal requirement of back-ground knowledge. This edition can be more effective than the first one as a textbook for undergraduate students, more comprehensive as a handbook for life scientists, more educational as a trade book for general readers, and more pragmatic as a reference text for medical, psycho-logical, and veterinary practitioners. Of course, no book can provide truly exhaustive coverage of a scientific discipline. Readers interested in more detailed information about the topics covered in this hook will benefit from the detailed referencing of original sources by bibliographic footnotes in each chapter.

To facilitate its use as a textbook, this hook contains summaries, suggestions for further readings, directions to pertinent web sites, and exercises at the end of each chap-ter. A CD-ROM included in the hook provides a suite of computer programs designed to offer practical experience in a variety of topics. Instructions for software installation are given in a separate section before the first chapter, and programs for data analysis — as well as tutorials and simulation programs -- are introduced at the appropriate points in the various chapters. A Dictionary of Circadian Physiology  with information on meaning, etymology, and pronunciation is included at the end of the book.

For the benefit of international readers, the Dictionary includes a table of equivalency of major circadian physiology terms in eight foreign languages. Also included are lists of standard international units of measurement and of conversion factors for various British units that are still in use in the United States. Readers both researchers and students — are also encouraged to visit my laboratory's web site (www.circadian.org) and to use the e-mail link to send me queries about specific issues.

The organization of this edition is similar to that of the first edition, which was praised by several reviewers. The book is divided into 5 parts, each with several chapters (see Figure). The first part covers historical and methodological topics in the study of circadian rhythms. The second part deals with the phenomenology of biological rhythms, i.e.. the description of the multiplicity of rhythmic phenomena in living organisms — including infradian, circadian, and ultradian rhythms. The third part addresses the physiological mechanisms, both endogenous and environmental, that control circadian rhythms. The fourth part provides a look into the physical substrates of circadian rhythms at the level of organs, cells, and molecules. Finally, the fifth part covers the multiple applications of circadian physiology in the planning of optimal times for physical and intellectual activity, the prevention of jet lag, the management of shift work, the treatment of sleep disorders, and many other endeavors.

Some readers have pointed out to me that the conciseness of the first edition was one of its most valuable features. For these readers, the expanded second edition may not be as attractive as the first one. However, I believe that the readability, not the brevity, of the first edition was its major asset, and I strived to make the second edition just as readable as the first one — if not more so. As a matter of fact, the highly interdisciplinary nature of the study of circadian rhythms makes this study not only exciting but also challenging. The breath of life-sciencesbackground required in this enterprise practically eliminates the learning advantage that researchers experienced in other areas might have over bright but unexperienced undergraduate students. Consequently, it is quite appropriate to write Circadian Physiology as a book accessible to a wide audience. Brief reviews of essential principles in physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, neuroscience, statistics, computer science, and philosophy of science are provided in Chapters 2 and 3 as part of the discussion of research methods and data analysis procedures in circadian physiology. Beyond these essential principles, the required background knowledge generally does not exceed that expected of first year university students (and, when it does, additional background material is provided). Still, individuals at different stages of their careers, and individuals in different occupations, will most likely have a greater interest in some parts of the book than in others.

Professors adopting this edition of Circadian Physiology as a textbook will notice that 17 chapters are 2 chapters more than the 15 weeks of a typical university course. I felt that forcing the material into 15 chapters would disrupt the natural organization of the topics covered in the book without providing any real benefit, as many professors do not place equal emphasis on every chapter and often skip a few chapters or combine two chapters in one week. The choice of how to organize the course should rightfully remain the prerogative of the Inspection of the table readily suggests a possible schedule of classes: one chapter per week for the first 13 weeks and two chapters per week for the last two weeks. Extra time for additional activities would be available on weeks 8 and 11 (when the chapters are relatively short). Of course, the professor should take into consideration not only the length but also the complexity of the material in each chapter. As much as I tried to make all chapters equally readable, readers with different backgrounds may find some chapters to be "denser" than others.

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