cover image Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects

Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects

Scott Richard Shaw. Univ. of Chicago, $27.50 (256p) ISBN 978-0-226-16361-1

Shaw, professor of entomology at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, takes an arthropodist stand against “human-centric bias that seeks to place our vertebrate ancestors in some kind of elevated position,” as he frames evolutionary history from the vantage point of insect development. The million distinct catalogued species that Shaw says “rule the planet” only constitute a subset of those that are documented in the fossil record or that have been discovered in the microniches of environments such as the tropical rainforest. Shaw looks at groups of species in terms of the structural features that developed to exploit emerging habitats and examines them in light of their parallel development with plant or animal species for which they might be prey, parasites, or pollinators. His assertion that the incredible success of insect forms makes them the most likely to reoccur in terrestrial-type environments leads him to playfully predict that the life we are most likely to find on other planets will be “buggy.” Shaw’s detailed investigation places the broad classifications of ancient and modern insects in the context of their development, and, by showing specifics of coevolution, he makes a strong case for valuing the interconnectedness of all life. 12 color plates, 31 halftones. (Sept.)