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Noteworthy Books Received by the Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 10, Number 1, 2011

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 10, Issue 1 (2011): 196–198

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196 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 18, No. 1 Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose. Deirdre Barrett. 2010. WW. Norton and Company, New York, NY. 216 pp. $24.95, hardcover. ISBN 9780393068481. Our instincts—for food, sex, or territorial protection—evolved for life on the savannahs 10,000 years ago, not in today’s world of densely populated cities, technological innovations, and pollution. We now have access to a glut of larger-than-life objects, from candy to pornography to atomic weapons—that gratify these gut instincts with often-dangerous results. Animal biologists coined the term “supernormal stimuli” to describe imitations that appeal to primitive instincts and exert a stronger pull than real things, such as soccer balls that geese prefer over eggs. Evolutionary psychologist Deirdre Barrett applies this concept to the alarming disconnect between human instinct and our created environment, demonstrating how supernormal stimuli are a major cause of today’s most pressing problems, including obesity and war. However, Barrett does more than show how unfettered instincts fuel dangerous excesses. She also reminds us that by exercising self-control we can rein them in, potentially saving ourselves and civilization. Do Hummingbirds Hum? Fascinating Answers to Questions About Hummingbirds. George C. West and Carol A. Butler. 2010. Rutgers University Press, Rutgers, NJ. 208 pp. $21.95, softcover. ISBN 9780813547381. Hummingbirds may be the smallest birds in the world, but they have the biggest appetites. Their wings flutter on average fifty to eighty times each second as they visit hundreds of flowers over the course of a day to sip the sweet nectar that sustains them. Their hearts beat nearly twelve hundred times a minute and their rapid breathing allows these amazing birds to sustain their unique manner of flight. They can hover in the air for prolonged periods, fly backwards using forceful wings that swivel at the shoulder, and dive at nearly two hundred miles per hour. Native only to the Americas, some hummingbirds have been known to migrate from Mexico to Alaska in the course of a season. Watching a hummingbird at a backyard feeder, we only see its glittering iridescent plumage and its long, narrow beak; its rapidly moving wings are a blur to our eyes. These tiny, colorful birds have 196 long fascinated birders, amateur naturalists, and gardeners. But, do they really hum? In Do Hummingbirds Hum? George C. West, who has studied and banded over 14,000 hummingbirds in Arizona, and Carol A. Butler provide an overview of hummingbird biology for the general reader, and more detailed discussions of their morphology and behavior for those who want to fly beyond the basics. Enriched with beautiful and rare photography, including a section in vivid color, this engaging question-and-answer guide offers readers a wide range of information about these glorious pollinators as well as tips for attracting, photographing, and observing hummingbirds in the wild or in captivity. Why do Bees Buzz? Fascinating Answers to Questions About Bees. Elizabeth Capaldi Evans and Carol A. Butler. 2010. Rutgers University Press, Rutgers, NJ. 248 pp. $21.95, softcover. ISBN 9780813547213. Twenty-five thousand species of bees certainly create a loud buzz. Yet silence descended a few years ago when domesticated bee populations plummeted. Bees, in particular honey bees, are critical links in the vibrant chain that brings fruits, vegetables, and nuts to markets and dinner tables across the country. Farmers and scientists on the agricultural frontlines quickly realized the impact of this loss, but many others did not see this devastation. Why Do Bees Buzz? reports on the mysterious “colony collapse disorder” that has affected honey bee populations, as well as other captivating topics, such as their complex, highly social lives, and how other species of bees are unique and different from honey bees. Organized in chapters that cover everything from these provocative pollinators’ basic biology to the aggressive nature of killer bees, this insightful question-and-answer guide provides a honeycomb of compelling facts. With clarity and depth, bee biologist Elizabeth Capaldi Evans and coauthor Carol A. Butler examine the lives of honey bees, as well as other species such as orchid bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees. Accessible to readers on every level, and including the latest research and theory for the more sophisticated reader, the authors reveal over one hundred critical answers to questions about the lives of bees.Concepts about speciation, evolutionary adaptation and pollination, as well as historical details about topics such as Mayan Noteworthy Books Received by the Southeastern Naturalist, Issue 10/1, 2011 2011 Noteworthy Books 197 beekeeping and the appearance of bees in rock art, are arranged in easy-to-follow sidebars that highlight the text. Color and black and white photographs and drawings enhance the beauty and usefulness of Why Do Bees Buzz? The Backyard Bird Lover’s Ultimate Howto Guide: More than 200 Easy Ideas and Projects for Attracting and Feeding Your Favorite Birds. Sally Roth. 2010. Rodale Books, Emmaus, PA. 320 pp. $21.99, softcover. ISBN 9781605295190. One of the joys of spending time in the backyard is observing the birds. This acorns-to-wrens guide helps readers create a backyard that’s right for them and right for their local birds. The book targets all skill levels, offering new birders plenty of basics, while intriguing long-time birdwatchers with new ideas. Here readers will learn: which birdhouses are a smart buy and which ones to leave on the shelf, how to choose a birdseed mix to attract colorful songbirds, why easy homemade suet blocks are irresistable to hungry birds in every season, and how to offer shelter to species dealing with disappearing natural habitats. Along with the ins and outs of feeding, behavior, nesting, and gardening advice, each of the 200-plus entries is sprinkled with super-simple step-by-step projects, bird-treat recipes, and planting ideas, along with plenty of fascinating bird lore and Roth’s own observations on bird behavior. Kingdom of Ants: José Celestino Mustis and the Dawn of Natural History in the New World. Edward O. Wilson and José M. Gómez Durán. 2010. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 120 pp. $24.95, hardcover. ISBN 9780801897856. One of the earliest New World naturalists, José Celestino Mutis began his professional life as a physician in Spain and ended it as a scientist and natural philosopher in modern-day Colombia. Drawing on new translations of Mutis’ nearly forgotten writings, this fascinating story of scientific adventure in eighteenth-century South America retrieves Mutis's contributions from obscurity. In 1760, the 28-year-old Mutis—newly appointed as the personal physician of the Viceroy of the New Kingdom of Granada—embarked on a 48-year exploration of the natural world of northern South America. His thirst for knowledge led Mutis to study the region's flora, become a professor of mathematics, construct the first astronomical observatory in the Western Hemisphere, and amass one of the largest scientific libraries in the world. He translated Newton’s writings and penned essays about Copernicus; lectured extensively on astronomy, geography, and meteorology; and eventually became a priest. But, as two-time Pulitzer Prize–winner Edward O. Wilson and Spanish natural history scholar José M. Gómez Durán reveal in this enjoyable and illustrative account, one of Mutis’s most magnificent accomplishments involved ants. Acting at the urging of Carl Linnaeus—the father of taxonomy—shortly after he arrived in the New Kingdom of Granada, Mutis began studying the ants that swarmed everywhere. Though he lacked any entomological training, Mutis built his own classification for the species he found and named at a time when New World entomology was largely nonexistent. His unorthodox catalog of army ants, leafcutters, and other six-legged creatures found along the banks of the Magdalena provided a starting point for future study. Wilson and Durán weave a compelling, fast-paced story of ants on the march and the eighteenth-century scientist who followed them. A unique glance into the early world of science exploration, Kingdom of Ants is a delight to read and filled with intriguing information. Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife. Craig N. Huegel. 2010. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, fl. 312 pp. $24.95, softcover. ISBN 9780813034942. Floridians share their state with a wide and unique array of wildlife. Unfortunately, commercially developed subdivisions and landscapes often do not provide welcoming habitats for the majority of the native fauna. Attract wildlife back to your yard with this clear, practical guide. Ecologist and consultant Craig Huegel draws on his considerable experience as both a gardener and a professional wildlife biologist to explain how anyone can easily create an attractive landscape plan that is also an inviting habitat for wild animals. He provides specific information on the wildlife value of approximately 150 native trees and shrubs and gives clear and precise direction on incorporating each into your garden. Featuring nearly 200 brilliant color photos, Huegel's guide will help you to identify and select the plants you need—no matter where you live in Florida. Whether you want to invite birds, deer, rabbits, frogs, turtles, or foxes, transforming your yard into a sustainable, wildlife-friendly environment won’t require difficult or dramatic changes. Pick up this handy and inspiring book today and discover how easy it is to redevelop any landscape into an attractive habitat for wildlife. 198 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 18, No. 1 Wildlife Conservation Society Birds of Brazil: The Pantanal and Cerrado of Central Brazil. John A. Gwynne, Robert S. Ridgely, Guy Tudor, and Martha Argel. 2010. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. 336 pp. $35, softcover. ISBN 9780801476464. Brazil, the fifth largest nation in the world, is one of the planet’s richest places for avian diversity and endemism. With the Birds of Brazil field guide series, the Wildlife Conservation Society brings together a top international team to do justice to the incredible diversity of Brazil’s avifauna. This first guide of the planned five-volume series features the 743 bird species of the Pantanal and Cerrado regions of Central Brazil. The sprawling Pantanal plain, one of the world’s most famed birding sites, is a seasonally flooded wetland boasting both impressive concentrations of large waterbirds and species such as the Toco Toucan, Hyacinth Macaw, Golden-collared Macaw, and endemic Blaze-winged Parakeets. The Cerrado is a distinctive Brazilian habitat that is the planet’s biologically richest savanna. This compact modern field guide’s unparalleled color artwork throughout, identification points, and range map for each species enable easy identification of all the birds normally found in these vibrant and critically important areas of Brazil. With 116 threatened species encompassing 25 percent of South America’s threatened birds, Brazil has an imperative to conserve its birds and unique habitats that begins with their appreciation and identification. Thus, the species accounts are coupled with an introductory chapter on the region’s unique environments and pressing conservation challenges. This practical and portable guide is an indispensable companion to those visiting Brazil’s glorious natural areas of the Pantanal and Cerrado. Altered Environments: The Outer Banks of North Carolina. Jeffrey Pompe. 2010. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC. 168 pp. $29.95, hardcover. ISBN 9781570039232. The constant assault of natural forces make fragile barrier islands some of the most rapidly changing locations in the world, but human activities have had enormous impact on these islands as well. In Altered Environments, Jeffrey and Kathleen Pompe explore the complex interactions between nature and human habitation on the resilient Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Pompes employ modern and historical photographs and maps to illustrate the geographic and ecologic changes that have taken place on the Outer Banks, evaluating efforts to preserve these lands and also meet the evolving needs of a growing population. The Pompes examine the various forces that have created an environment so very different from the Outer Banks of only a few decades ago. The defining event in the reshaping of the islands for expanded development was the dune-construction project of the 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed a wall of self-sustaining dunes along 125 miles of Outer Banks shoreline in an effort to stave off beach erosion. This event created a historical demarcation in conservation efforts and heralded the beginning of a period of rapid economic development for the Outer Banks. The construction project reshaped the islands' geography to accomplish perceived economic advantages and prepared the Outer Banks for the last half of the twentieth century, when tourists increasingly visited this shore, bringing corresponding developments in their wake. The dune-restoration project is just one of the Pompes' examples of how human actions have altered the islands to meet the demands of a growing number of visitors and residents. While Altered Environments focuses on the Outer Banks, the narrative also considers social, environmental, and economic issues that are relevant to much of the seashore. Most coastal communities face similar problems, such as natural disasters and shoreline erosion, and in recent decades rapid population growth has exacerbated many conservation problems. Realestate developments, the fisheries industry, tourism, climate change, and oil exploration all come under scrutiny in this investigation. Using the Outer Banks as a case study to frame a host of environmental challenges faced along the Atlantic seaboard today, the Pompes provide a valuable commentary on the historical context of these concerns and offer some insightful solutions that allow for sustainable communities. The Southeastern Naturalist welcomes submissions of review copies of books that publishers or authors would like to recommend to the journal’s readership and are relevant to the journal’s mission of publishing information about the natural history of the southeastern US. Accompanying short, descriptive summaries of the text are also welcome.