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100 Caterpillars: Portraits from the Tropical Forests of Costa Rica [Hardcover]

Jeffrey C. Miller , Daniel H. Janzen , Winifred Hallwachs


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Book Description

May 31 2006

Every bright monarch butterfly or striking luna moth started out in a far subtler form of nature's mosaic, a humble caterpillar. It is this early stage of life--crafted by natural selection into machines for converting a vast array of plant matter, mostly leaves, into the beautiful adults that have captivated humans for millennia--that this book brings to dazzling light. Unobtrusive as they go about their business, these caterpillars are rarely seen by humans--and are virtually never seen from the perspective presented in this sumptuous volume: photographed in extreme close-ups at a resolution that captures in sharp detail the exquisite colors and features eluding the casual observer.

Gathered by biologists Daniel Janzen, Winifred Hallwachs, and Jeffrey Miller in the tropical dry forests, cloud forests, and rain forests of northwestern Costa Rica, over 100 large-format photographs of caterpillars document the dizzying variety of shapes, vivid colors, and cryptic markings among these species. The pictures are accompanied by capsule species accounts--revealing life histories as diverse as their forms--and magnificent images of the adult butterfly or moth. Throughout, the authors convey an intimate sense of these creatures--studied over twenty-five years--by focusing on how their features figure in their behavior and ecology, and on the beauty of nature in this life stage, as well as the nature of that beauty.

The story of the caterpillars is also the success story of Area de Conservacion Guanacaste--where the long-term work of Janzen and Hallwachs, and a team of gusaneros (caterpillar collectors and rearers), along with the participation of neighboring farming communities, has deepened understanding of Costa Rica's Lepidoptera and has brought about advances in restoration ecology of tropical habitats, biodiversity prospecting, biological control of pests, biotechnology, residents' bioliteracy, and ecotourism development.


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Review

This volume not only represents a biological trove bursting with scientific information, but also comprises an artistic contribution to the world of art and science. 100 Caterpillars is an elegant addition to the library of anyone interested in art, science, or natural history who wants to learn more about tropical insects.
--Margaret D. Lowman, author of It's a Jungle Up There: More Tales from the Treetops

Furry, thorny and psychedelic--it's a shame that these caterpillars will turn into butterflies, so remarkable are they in their current state. Working with local gusaneros (caterpillar collectors) for the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, the authors have documented 25 years of biodiversity in Costa Rica's Lepidoptera. Consider this beautiful book their long-awaited greatest hits album. (Seed 2006-04-01)

The authors present close-ups of 100, generally ostentatious, macrocaterpillars from the estimated 9,500 species inhabiting northwestern Costa Rica's Area de Conservacicn Guanacaste. The species accounts include comments on behavior, range, abundance, food plants, predators, and parasites. Accompanied by an image of the adult, each highlights a relevant natural history theme. (Science 2006-06-09)

The transformation from caterpillar to butterfly or moth is one of nature's most beguiling acts of magic. Masters of deception and camouflage in the early stage of life, these insects must survive what seem insurmountable odds before taking flight, when they reveal yet another sleight of hand. Yet most of us see only a fleeting moment of this metamorphosis, much less the variety and color palette of 225,000 known species of butterflies and moths. Seldom do we embrace in detail the many masks worn by caterpillars, often their only strategy for survival. That mosaic is captured in the new book 100 Caterpillars: Portraits From the Tropical Forests of Costa Rica by Jeffrey Miller, Daniel Janzen and Winifred Hallwachs. The authors reflect on how caterpillar diversity plays a part in behavior and ecology and forms one of the interconnected webs of nature...The result of their labors is a collection of stunning large-format photographs that document myriad shapes, colors, textures and cryptic markings.
--Kurt Loft (Tampa Tribune 2006-06-05)

More than 100 large-format photographs document a conservation project that has been 25 years in the making. The book is also full of caterpillar trivia: many live solitary lives, even indulging in cannibalism. Groups of caterpillars (an army in case you were wondering) stay together by secreting a chemical track that others can follow. (Daily Telegraph 2006-07-01)

The pictures are backed up by painstaking ecological research that makes sense of the exuberance and vibrancy. This is a treasure trove of natural history that should remind conservationists what we are doing this for.
--Adrian Barnett (New Scientist 2006-07-08)

This is truly an impressive book. It combines the visual appeal of a coffee table book of insects that anyone might pick up, with detailed information on the ecology of each species that will interest the entomologist...Complementing the brilliant photographs are accounts of the life-histories and host-plants of each species together with first hand descriptions of the circumstances of collection and a small colour photograph of the adult insects. This remarkable book is strongly bound in cloth-covered cardboard with an attractive fly cover. It will appeal to anyone interested in natural history, entomology, insect photography and art!
--Dr. Garry Levot (General and Applied Entomology)

This collection of more than 100 full-color portraits of plant-eating machines that develop into moths and butterflies captures the beauty of these creatures up close. Each specimen was collected by the authors or by gusaneros, the resident caterpillar collectors of the Area de Conservación Guanacaste in Costa Rica. From the nearly 9,500 species of caterpillars that make their home in the area, the authors, who are conservation biologists, selected 100 of the most colorful and distinctive for their gallery of full-page, finely detailed photos at the front of this book. At the back are pages, about one per species, describing each speciman and--in an unusual twist on butterfly books--a small rendering of each one's adult form. What results is an homage to some of nature's most fascinating creatures with some of the weirdest appearances. (Science News 2006-07-29)

I opened the book and fell headlong into a world of unbelievable creatures...Leaf through the large-format photographs in 100 Caterpillars and you'll see all the latest in caterpillar-wear from the mountains and forests of Costa Rica. We're talking pine-needle coats, detachable red tails, and fake orange eyes. That is, if you can find the caterpillars. Consider the incredibly cryptic Narope, completely indistinguishable from a papery sheath of bamboo, or Archaeoprepona meander, twin to a torn leaf...What's not to love?
--Ketzel Levine (NationalPublicRadio.org 2006-11-28)

[This book does] justice to [its] photogenic subjects...100 Caterpillars showcases the richness of a single UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste in northwestern Costa Rica. The uniformly posed caterpillars, arranged as an inventory of species, look like so many fat worms in Mardi Gras drag. Matching photographs and descriptions of their adult forms occupy the second half of the book.
--Laurence A. Maschall (Natural History)

Before you can have a butterfly, it helps to have a caterpillar. Here's a beautifully photographed album of 100 of them, set against matte-black backgrounds, in colors that range from neon green to stained-glass red and yellow.
--Michael Upchurch (Seattle Times)

The photographs of the caterpillars are utterly gorgeous, with a profusion of shapes, colours and patterns that go beyond the fantastical into the otherworldly. In the second half of the book, the three authors present serious caterpillar science in a chatty fashion, describing the fate of one spiny species as becoming 'a fully sized package of high-quality food for the fly maggot.'
--Peter Calamai (Toronto Star 2006-12-31)

About the Author

Jeffrey C. Miller is Professor in the Department of Rangeland Ecology and Management at Oregon State University.

Daniel H. Janzen is Thomas G. and Louise E. DiMaura Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Winifred Hallwachs is Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Forget the Larvae May 23 2006
By R. Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
We don't generally like insects much, remembering how they sting, sicken, or impoverish us, and forgetting that they do us invaluable service in the reproduction of new generations of countless plant species. We do like butterflies because they are so beautiful and harmless, but we do not like caterpillars because they are squirmy and eat our plants. There are countless books featuring pictures of beautiful butterflies and moths, but few featuring the larval forms of the insect. A look at _100 Caterpillars: Portraits from the Tropical Forests of Costa Rica_ (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) by Jeffrey C. Miller, Daniel H. Janzen, and Winifred Hallwachs shows that the emphasis on the flying forms may be misplaced. The gorgeous, large-format pictures here show all the colors of which adult butterflies can boast, plus an enormous variation in patterns, spikes, hairs, body plans, and more. Indeed, after the hundred photographs, there is a section of the book devoted to detailed descriptions of the behavior and ecology of each caterpillar, and for each there is a small picture of the adult into which it will grow. Almost all the adults are more drab and less interesting than their larvae.

Caterpillars exist to perform two duties, eating and avoiding being eaten. The pictures seldom show the caterpillars feeding, but frequently show the defensive structures that keep others from feeding upon them. There are many caterpillars here with hairs or "urticating spines", filled with an irritant that can cause sharp pain. So watch out for the spines, although you never have to worry about a bite; caterpillars never evolved a venomous bite, so you can let even the spined ones walk over you. The wonderful _Acraga hamata_ looks as if it is covered in a mosaic of transparent glass beads; this is gelatinous material that breaks away if the caterpillar is grabbed. Several of the specimens here are hard to see because they look just like a torn leaf or a branch or a mat of fungus. For mimicry, there is nothing to beat _Hemeroplanes triptolemus_, an undistinguished drab green caterpillar when at rest. When disturbed, however, it raises and inflates its hind end, which takes on the appearance of a viper's head, complete with eyes, mouth, and nose spots. It holds still in this position, but if further provoked, can even make the viper's head strike at the offending predator, although there is no threat of a bite. The authors say that even if you know that, it is hard to keep from withdrawing your hand in shock if you are performing the experiment yourself.

This beautiful book includes pictures of the "Area de Conservación Guanacaste", the World Heritage Site that contains the forest from which these specimens come, and also pictures of the locals who work as collectors, and the barn where bags of specimen caterpillars feed and develop. There are also descriptions of the equipment used to make these spectacular photos, and recommendations for how others can do the same. The authors include a commendable section about ethics concerning the handling of the little creatures that they obviously admire and love: you must not anesthetize or chill the caterpillar as a means to force quiescence, and you must not tease the caterpillar excessively: "it will respond negatively, either by curling up for hours on end, fainting and falling off the prop, breaking into a running bout, or worse, spitting up gut contents." Words to live by.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beautiful Caterpillars May 29 2006
By Philip F. May - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book will change the way you feel about caterpillars. It transforms them from ugly pests into objects of beauty and of intellectual fascination. Based on more than twenty-five years of field research in the tropics by Janzen and Hallwachs and their assistants, it contains not only magnificent photos but also a wealth of information on the behavior and ecology of the species represented. It is at the same time a wonderful coffee table book and a great naturaly history read. In sum, I loved this book, and intend to give it as Christmas presents to all of my nature-loving friends.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wondrous Jan. 11 2007
By HardcoreSkeptic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
100 Caterpillars is an excellent and usual book: Few other books feature macro close-ups of caterpillars in such exquisite detail. The caterpillars in this book--small creatures with outrageous and subtle majesty--challenge the notion that one must transform into a butterfly to be beautiful.

There is an extravagance of evolution on each page; one caterpillar which looks like it's made of ice took my breath away, another that inflates when threatened to very convincingly imitate the head of a venomous snake made me laugh with delight. What a strange and wonderful world we live in. This book on your table can always remind you of that.
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous Costa Rican catepillars Dec 19 2013
By Randall K. Curtis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Unbelievable pictures of what beauty evolution can create in even the humble catepillar. The variety of colors are absolutely amazing.
5.0 out of 5 stars Maravilloso !!!!! April 28 2011
By Ricardo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Es un libro único, las fotografías a color son maravillosas, de buen formato y la información muy bien cuidada. Quienes son amantes de las mariposas, tienen que tener este libro en su colección. El único defecto que tiene es la pasta del libro que es blanda y se maltrata un poco. Si fuera de pasta dura seria muy bueno.

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