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Noteworthy Books

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 14, Issue 3 (2015): B2–B3

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Southeastern Naturalist Noteworthy Books 2015 Vol. 14, No. 3 B2 Ice, Fire, and Nutcrackers. George Constantz. 2015. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT. 397 pp., $24.95, softcover, ISBN: 9781607813620. This volume combines ecological principles, evolutionary theory, and natural history with captivating storytelling. The book is subtitled A Rocky Mountain Ecology, and readers with an interest in that region will find specific information about its ecology, flora, and fauna. However, many of the ecological principles discussed pertain more widely to other alpine and sub-alpine areas, and several of the plant and animals species or other members of their genera occur across North America. Constantz clearly enjoys trying to answer the “Why?” questions of natural history and delights in sharing his answers with others. The author even discusses the origins of Paleoamericans, their activities, and how they interacted with their mountainous environment in the Rockies. This book will find satisfied readers among scientists, teachers, hikers, and anyone interested in the organisms found on this planet. Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes. Bernie Krause. 2015. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. 184 pp., $20, hardcover, ISBN: 9780300206319. Since 1968, Bernie Krause has traveled the world recording the sounds of remote landscapes, endangered habitats, and rare animal species. Through his organization, Wild Sanctuary, he has collected the soundscapes of more than 2000 different habitat types, marine and terrestrial. With powerful illustrations and compelling stories, Krause provides a manifesto for the appreciation and protection of natural soundscapes. In his previous book, The Great Animal Orchestra, Krause drew readers’ attention to what Jane Goodall described as “the harmonies of nature . . . [that are being] one by one by one, snuffed out by human actions.” He now explains that the secrets hidden in the natural world’s shrinking sonic environment must be preserved, not only for our scientific understanding, but for our cultural heritage and humanity’s physical and spiritual welfare. Krause’s narrative—supplemented by exclusive access to field recordings from the wild—draws on a compelling range of personal anecdotes, histories, and examples to document his early exploration of this field and to lay the groundwork for future generations. Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica. Federico Muñoz Chacón and Richard Dennis Johnston. 2013. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. 186 pp. $14.95, softcover. ISBN 9780801478697. Costa Rica is a remarkable place for amphibians and reptiles. Known for its biological diversity, conservation priorities, and extensive protected lands, this small country contains 418 herpetological species including the dangerous Fer-de-Lance and Black-headed Bushmaster, the beloved sea turtles, and numerous dink, foam, glass, and rain frogs. Additional species are thought to be nearing extinction while others have been introduced only recently. Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica is the perfect introductory guide to this diverse herpetofauna in a format that makes it easy to carry into the field. The focus is on identification with entries for all species in the country, including scientific and English common names, as well as the older names for the many species that have been recently reclassified. Key ID marks are noted as well as adult sizes. Range maps identify the region(s) where species are known to be present. Color photographs and drawings are provided for over 80 percent of the species, representing those that are most likely to be encountered. Designed with ease of use in mind, this guide will be a great aid to the observer in identifying the specimen at hand. The Runes of Evolution: How the Universe Became Self-Aware. Simon Conway Morris. 2015. Templeton Press, West Conshohocken, PA. 496 pp., $27.97, hardcover, ISBN: 9781599474649. How did human beings acquire imaginations that can conjure up untrue possibilities? How did the Universe become self-aware? In The Runes of Evolution, Simon Conway Morris revitalizes the study of evolution from the perspective of convergence, providing us with compelling new evidence to support the mounting scientific view that the history of life is far more predictable than once thought. A leading evolutionary biologist at the University of Cambridge, Conway Morris came into international prominence for his work on the Cambrian explosion (especially fossils of the Burgess Shale) and evolutionary convergence, which is the process whereby organisms not closely related (not monophyletic), independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological Noteworthy Books Received by the Southeastern Naturalist, Issue 14/3, 2015 Southeastern Naturalist B3 Noteworthy Books 2015 Vol. 14, No. 3 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. niches. In The Runes of Evolution, he illustrates how the ubiquity of convergence hints at an underlying framework whereby many outcomes, not least brains and intelligence, are virtually guaranteed on any Earth-like planet. Conway Morris also emphasizes how much of the complexity of advanced biological systems is inherent in microbial forms. By casting a wider net, The Runes of Evolution explores many neglected evolutionary questions. Some are remarkably general. Why, for example, are convergences such as parasitism, carnivory, and nitrogen fixation in plants concentrated in particular taxonomic hot spots? Why do certain groups have a particular propensity to evolve toward particular states? Some questions lead to unexpected evolutionary insights: If bees sleep (as they do), do they dream? Why is that insect copulating with an orchid? Why have sponges evolved a system of fiber optics? What do mantis shrimps and submarines have in common? If dinosaurs had not gone extinct what would have happened next? Will a saber-toothed cat ever re-evolve? Conway Morris observes: “Even amongst the mammals, let alone the entire tree of life, humans represent one minute twig of a vast (and largely fossilized) arborescence. Every living species is a linear descendant of an immense string of now-vanished ancestors, but evolution itself is the very reverse of linear. Rather it is endlessly exploratory, probing the vast spaces of biological hyperspace. Indeed this book is a celebration of how our world is (and was) populated by a riot of forms, a coruscating tapestry of life.” The Runes of Evolution is the most definitive synthesis of evolutionary convergence to be published to date. A Revision of the New World Species of Paralimna Loew (Diptera: Ephydridae). Rosaly Ale-Rocha and Wayne N. Mathis. 2015. Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, Washington, DC. 148 pp., softcover, ISSN: 0081-0282; number 643. This publication is Number 643 in the Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology series. The New World species of the genus Paralimna Loew are revised. Fifteen new species are described and four new synonyms are proposed (Paralimna cilifera Hendel = Paralimna sana Cresson, Paralimna sticta Hendel = Paralimna taurus Cresson, Paralimna bistriata Hendel = Paralimna molossus Schiner, and P. multipunctata Williston = Paralimna thomae (Wiedemann)). A key to the 34 known, New World species of the subgenera Paralimna is provided, as is a key to the three New World species of the subgenus Phaiosterna Cresson. Diagnoses, detailed distributional data for the species of the genus, notes on the biology, and illustrations (photographs and drawings) are provided to assist species identification. A cladistic analysis was performed to examine the monophyly of the known species groups of Paralimna. The ingroup includes a total of 64 exemplar species. Outgroup sampling includes the following exemplar genera: Afrolimna Cogan Oedenops Becker, and Papuama Mathis and Zatwarnicki. The analyses of the 36 included characters recovered a monophyletic subgenus Phaiosterna Cresson and a paraphyletic subgenus Paralimna if the limbata species group is included. Except for the limbata species group, the remaining known species groups of Paralimna were not sustained. This comprehensive taxonomy of the genus includes 215 figures and 31 distribution maps, and is a valuable resource for all who have an interest in these shore flies found widely in the southern and eastern US. It is available for download at http://opensi.