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Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions Hardcover – May 5, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Are ants exciting? You bet they are! Entomologist Moffett, who has been described as the �Indiana Jones of entomology,� takes the reader along as he travels the world in search of ants. Ants are found on every continent except Antarctica and in virtually every climate. They are masters at exploiting an abundant niche�the cracks, crevices, gaps, hollows, and other interstices of the environment. As a small child Moffett was enraptured by ants, and, after reading the exploits of the early explorer-naturalists, he wanted to be a field biologist. Studying ants has led him to India and the marauder ant, which has workers of three sizes, the largest being 500 times the size of the smallest�the smallest, however, are those that start the hunt. In Nigeria, he watches army ants on raids, observing how individual prey species fight back. Weaver ants in Australia, Asia, and Africa use their larvae�s ability to spin silk to bind leaves together to make a nest. In Brunei, the author observed ants diving into pitcher plants to retrieve drowned insects. California reveals the slaver Amazon ants, who steal pupae from other ant species to do all of their work for them. In South America, Moffett digs up colonies of leaf-cutting ants, who grow their fungus food in gardens based on leaves they cut. Illustrated throughout with the author�s exquisite closeup photos, photos that bring the actions of these tiny protagonists to a size we can appreciate, Moffett�s work will make ant appreciators of even the most phobic. --Nancy Bent


“Packed with graphic enthusiasm...[and] provocative thoughts. . . . [Moffett] writes with an entertainer’s instinct for hooking a restless audience.”
(New York Times 2010-06-13)

"[Adventures among Ants] is hefty, yet aerodynamic. It’s really good for killing ants."
(The Colbert Report 2010-05-04)

“Take a look at daring eco-adventurer Mark Moffett's spectacular new ant book.” - Margaret Atwood
(Margaret Atwood New York Review Of Books 2010-04-08)

"Superb book by a first-class writer with an unsurpassed feel for ants.”
(Library Journal 2010-06-15)

“Adventures Among Ants may reach a broader audience than other recent publications and therefore stimulate interest in ants among a new generation.”
(Philip Newey Bioscience 2011-06-01)

“Serfdom, war and dying for the tribe: It reads like a page out of a Russian novel. In fact, we're talking about ant life.”
(Los Angeles Times 2010-05-29)

“The book itself is a fine specimen . . . [Moffett’s] expertise with the camera must match his expertise on ant biology.”
(National Wildlife 2010-05-17)

“Moffett's ants are always sleek, polished and doing something spectacular.”
(Nature 2010-05-13)

“Adventure Among Ants offers exotic tales of places you will probably never go, and glimpses of beautiful ants performing marvelous feats.”
(Deborah M. Gordon Nature 2010-05-13)

“Many fascinating anecdotes.”
(Washington Post 2010-06-01)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (May 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520261992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520261990
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Mark W. Moffett, called "the Indiana Jones of Entomology" by the National Geographic Society, is a tropical ecologist and research associate at the Smithsonian Institution with a passion for discovering new species and behavior. Known as "Doctor Bugs," Mark has sat on a deadly snake in Peru, been chased up trees by Indian elephants, defended himself with a blowgun in Colombia, been lost in Borneo and New Guinea, walked into Afganistan from Iran, seen 100 foot wide army ant swarms in the Congo, and placed a scorpion on Conan O'Brien's head. For Mark, nothing is better than a good story, and his goal is to have people fall in love with the unexpected in nature, whether ant or spider, snake or frog.

Mark has the Lowell Thomas Medal from the Explorers Club, the Distinguished Explorer Award from the Roy Chapman Andrews Society, Yale University's Poynter Fellowship in Journalism, Harvard's Bowdoin Prize for writing, and numerous international awards in photography. He lectures across North America for the Creative Artists Agency and the National Geographic Society.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
From a cover that looks like a 1950's B-movie poster, to Mark Moffett's amazing photos and very fun text, Adventures Among Ants is the most exciting natural history book I've seen this season. Moffett is a quirky combination of photographer, biologist, and explorer. To mix categories even further, he's been called both the Indiana Jones of entomology and the Jane Goodall of ants. He's also one of E.O. Wilson's favorite photographers.

But I have to say, it's Mark's easy, thoughtful, and incredibly engaging writing style that makes this a wonderful book. I've already bought two copies, one for me and one for our local nature center. And then there's my older brother, my nephews, my.....
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Format: Hardcover
This is an absolutely wonderful and absorbing book of the scientist in Mark Moffett, who also happens to be a first-rate photographer and journalist at National Geographic Magazine. It is a sumptuous combination of images, vivid descriptions with many funny personal asides, and state-of-the-art discoveries taking place in the world of ants. Unlike his previous book on rainforest researchers, this book is far more science than journalism.

The story is Moffett's search to uncover the logic behind the unbelievably complex actions of ant societies. Starting out as a student entomologist with dreams of exploring the wild like Jane Goodall, he gains entry first into the inner sanctum of EO Wilson's world - one of the greatest scientists alive - and then, with his field research and images to record proof for his research, he gets the attention of one of the greatest science editors alive, Mary G. Smith of National Geographic. For all those who hope to make a living pursuing what they love, this kind of ready access is as astonishing as it is frustrating. That being said, Moffett had the talent to deserve it.

On the scientific side, he provides a portrait of the parameters of ant behavior. With communication via pheromone trails and their physical abilities, ants have a certain range within which they can operate - restricted yet incredibly varied. Moffett investigates their hunting strategies and diets, their habitats, their degrees of physical variation (a function of specialization that limits flexibility yet adds efficiency), and patterns of behavior. What emerges is a kind of collective mind, governed by tiny decisions, such that the actions of each ant colony appears to resemble those of a super-organism rather than a collection of individuals.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an extremely impressive book in just about every way. It has a clever and beautifully designed jacket (like a movie poster for Pixar: "Cast of Trillions"!); the page layouts are crisp and artful; the colored fonts for headings are artistic without being glaring; the text is very well edited and proofed; the many color plates of the ants are world class (Moffett has done photography for National Geographic which features some of the best nature photography anywhere); the writing engages the reader and is dense with information and adventure. Yes, adventure as in the title.

With this book I believe that Mark Moffett will emerge as a superstar among naturalists. In addition to being a world class photographer whose photographs of ants are unique in their clarity and expressiveness, he is an intrepid traveler and explorer who has visited every continent except Antarctica looking for ants. (He'd probably go there too if there were any ants!) He has bivouacked on numerous islands as well, including Malaysia and Easter Island where he found that the island has become overrun with Argentine ants, the little black ants that live in our lawns and kitchens. But more than anything Moffett is a first class biologist who specializes in myrmecology and loves it.

Consequently this book is a tour de force, the result of many years of study, exploration and just plain hard work in difficult circumstances in jungles and other terrain the world over. The energy of that work comes gushing out of the pages in a torrent with enough force to make the reader enter not only the world of the ant but the world of the scientist who studies the ant and to realize the incredible labor that went into its production.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is an astounding conclusion to a lifelong passion, and we are all the richer for Mark Moffett's accomplishments as a photographer, naturalist and scientist! Other books on ants have appeared this year, but none with breathtaking photographs such as these. While personal and narrative, Moffett's book is scholarly enough to satisfy the more entomologically serious reader. A million thanks for this chef d'oeuvre!
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Format: Hardcover
A Global Safari with a cast of Trillions

Flat out, this is the most fascinating non-fiction title I've read this year. Ants are seldom seen as fascinating, more like a nuisance! However, this book makes me almost wish for an ant invasion, just to try and observe some of the details the Moffett describes in his worldwide studies on ants.

The text contains lots of surprises as it covers various species of ants, and I can't scratch the surface of all the funny and also disquieting details about these creatures. He first discusses marauder ants, who can be classified in three sizes: the largest is 50 times larger than the smallest, and often serves as a `bus' to carry smaller ants to new locations. Most ants are female, they can live upwards of two years, and their behavior as workers for the colony is altruistic. The worker ants do not reproduce, and thus do not compete for food. In fact, he describes the male ants (that resemble wasps) as `socially useless', and confined to being sperm donors.

Their travel in columns is well-known, but how they find food and relay the information to the workers is unique. They emit a "recruitment" pheromone that immediately tells ants in the vicinity that food is near, and within seconds a full swarm goes into attack mode, retrieving the food and taking it back for storage. But what is more fascinating is the Pharoah ant that also has a "don't bother" pheromone that it emits when the food is gone, so that no ants waste their time.

The paths that ants use are actually ant roads, they reuse them as needed, rather than just randomly traveling over earth (as it would appear).
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