Zoos are amazing places. At their best, the modern forms mix research and spectacle into a melange that has the power to both entertain as well as enlighten. At their worst… well, let us not dwell on that at present. And as to their history; in their previous existence as menageries and indeed, right up into living memory, some have not only been institutions of scientific study, but but also centers of far more social and political influence than we would likely think possible today.
Not so very long after I entered Lyudmila Trut and Lee Dugatkin’s recently published book “How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution” into the “Newly Noted” section, whom did I discover Steve Mirsky interviewing about this very book on the Scientific American Science Talk podcast than Lee Dugatkin himself!
Quickly perusing the newly arrived copy of David B. River’s new Insects: Evolutionary Success, Unrivaled Diversity, and World Domination from Johns Hopkins University Press, I can’t help but suspect that it too may prove to be another delightful exception to the “stodgy textbook” rule. One early review has already praised it for being “fresh and relevant” as well as “ooz[ing] with an entomological swagger representing the passion of the insect world.”
Ever since acquiring a new microscope, I have been spending quite a lot of time renewing old acquaintances with some once familiar microscopic flora and fauna. Needless to say, despite my best efforts and plenty of dipping into assorted local ponds for specimens, blowing the dust off my identification skills has been progressing somewhat less quickly than I’d hoped.