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Pheidole in the New World: A Dominant, Hyperdiverse Ant Genus [Hardcover]

Edward O. Wilson
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 31, 2003 0674002938 978-0674002937

View a collection of videos on Professor Wilson entitled "On the Relation of Science and the Humanities"

Species of the genus Pheidole are the most abundant and diverse ants of the New World and range from the northern United States to Argentina. In this richly illustrated book, Edward O. Wilson untangles its classification for the first time, characterizing all 625 known species, 341 of which are new to science, and ordering them into 19 species groups. The author's keys and drawings, the latter showing complete body views arranged in the style of field books, allow rapid identification by anyone with an elementary understanding of entomology. In presenting all of Pheidole, the book covers one-fifth of the known ant species of the Western Hemisphere, including many of the commonest forms.

Wilson also summarizes our knowledge of the natural history of each species, much of it previously unpublished. In addition, he provides a general account of hyperdiversity, confirming that it is not a statistical artifact but a genuine biological phenomenon that can best be understood by detailed analyses of groups of organisms such as the Pheidole ants.

An important innovation in this book is the inclusion of a CD-ROM containing high-resolution digital images of the type specimens. The CD-ROM is designed to allow quick retrieval of information such as known range, group membership, measurements, and color. The CD-ROM thus will be useful in creating "instant" field guides, comparison charts, and local checklists.

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Editorial Reviews


Edward O. Wilson, one of the great naturalists of our time, hatches big ideas from the study of very small creatures. His newest book, Pheidole in the New World, surveys a genus of ants whose complexity and evolutionary success are so extraordinary they have never before been fully described. (Boston Globe 2003-02-25)

For the most part [it is] very hard to visualize and explain the entirely different scale of species diversity that is encountered in the invertebrate world. Faced with an illustration and explanation such as Edward O. Wilson's Pheidole in the New World, we can only be stunned...Wilson's monograph is the product of a master craftsman. It reeks of authority. Opening sections explain anatomy, terminology and abbreviations. There are 100 pages of keys. Each one-page species treatment includes line drawings of the major and minor workers in lateral view, frontal views of the heads, and details of the thorax and petiole; the location of the type-specimens; the derivation of the name; diagnosis, measurements, colour, geographical range and biology. Here are 624 treatments--a gigantic undertaking. And there is more. The CD is a searchable database that can be used as an identification tool supplementary to the keys. Possible inputs are measurements, colour and country of origin. Or the user can scroll between closely related species and compare high-resolution colour images of the lateral views of major and minor workers and frontal views of heads. (Gaden S. Robinson Times Literary Supplement 2004-07-30)

About the Author

Edward O. Wilson is Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University. In addition to two Pulitzer Prizes (one of which he shares with Bert Hölldobler), Wilson has won many scientific awards, including the National Medal of Science and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 818 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674002938
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674002937
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 9.2 x 12.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,490,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Regarded as one of the world's preeminent biologists and naturalists, Edward O. Wilson grew up in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, where he spent his boyhood exploring the region's forests and swamps, collecting snakes, butterflies, and ants--the latter to become his lifelong specialty. The author of more than twenty books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Ants" and "The Naturalist" as well as his first novel "Anthill," Wilson, a professor at Harvard, makes his home in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

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5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent October 14, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is one of the most important tools for people interest in identify or know more about the taxonomy and distribution of this prominent ant genus.
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16 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars questionable attitude? May 29, 2006
Prof Wilson is one of the most productive, brilliant scientists and leader in conservation, with a background in ant systematics (the science of the description of the species of our planet). This revision of Pheidole (a re-analysis of all the known facts of species of a particular group, including the description of so far unknown species), is a resumption of his early work. It includes the description of many hundred species of Pheidole ants from the Americas, and the usual explorative chapter tests the ground for a new idea, in this case to explain issues on diversity. The descriptions themselves are extremely short and lacking detail, unlike any other descriptions published, and, amazingly, the 624 species covered do not include many species already collected. An accompanying CD includes color images of about half the species mentioned.

The book though has one serious flaw. Access to taxonomic information is widely recognized as one of the main stumbling block in the conservation of biodiversity. There is an effort to make all this literature with well over 10 million pages online accessible (see for example the biodiversity heritage library), and to produce a single Web page for each species, what Wilson calls the Encyclopedia of Life. However, Prof. Wilson's Pheidole book remains copyrighted and thus prohibits the building up of these enormously important tools. This still did not happen, even more than two years after he was quoted in the August 28, 2003 issue of the scientific journal Nature, that the publishers (Harvard University Press) is putting the book online. Harvard University Press and Prof. Wilson's attitude clearly do a disfavor to conservation and access to scientific data, even heralded by them, and thus sets the wrong precedence.
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