Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review: Beetles of Eastern North America


J. S. B. Haldane, the famous British geneticist, is reputed to have been asked by a theologian about what conclusions the study of evolution might have on the nature of God. Haldane replied, assuming the Lord spent most of his time creating the creatures He liked best, and there being so many beetles on the planet, then the Creator must have “an inordinate fondness for beetles.” Beetles make up to one-fifth of all plant and animal species found in eastern North America.

The Beetles of Eastern North America is written by Arthur V. Evans and published by Princeton University Press in 2014. Naturalists will enjoy this stunning guide. Most of the 560 pages are illustrated with up to four, large, color photographs of various beetles—1500 photographs in the whole book. Each photograph is accompanied by a short paragraph describing the species and a bit about identification, habitat and range. You can take a peek at some of the pages by clicking on the link at the top of this review.

An illustrated key to the most common of the 115 beetle families found in eastern North America begins the accounts. 1409 species are included in this book. The problem is that this total is fewer than 10% of the beetles of the region. Thus this book is more of an introduction to beetles of the East, rather than a field guide. Furthermore, only experts with hand lenses can separate many beetle species. In fact, many beetles lack common names.

Those wishing to learn more about beetles will enjoy this book's introduction. Anatomy, behavior and natural history, and where to find beetles are all covered. Subsequent sections talk about observing, photographing, and collecting beetles—and, if you are really taken by studying beetles, how to keep and rear them in captivity.

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