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The Ants Hardcover – March 28, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0674040755 ISBN-10: 0674040759 Edition: 1st

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The Ants + The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies + Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration
Price for all three: $190.16

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 732 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1st edition (March 28, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674040759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674040755
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 9.8 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

This is the definitive scientific study of one of the most diverse animal groups on earth; pretty well everything that is known about ants is in this massive work. But books do not win Pulitzer Prizes, as this one did in 1991, for exhaustiveness; besides being the last word in science, this work is beautifully written, and accessible to the lay reader. Wilson, of Harvard, and Holldobler of the University of Wurzburg, may inspire a whole new generation of budding entomologists. Every branch of biology is covered, from evolution to taxonomy to physiology to ecology. Lavishly illustrated, it is full of amazing facts, many concerning the incredible social behavior of these creatures.


A monumental achievement, the last word in myrmecology, the study of ants...It is likely the average adult...will be intrigued by passages about these ubiquitous and complicated creatures. (Paul Galloway Chicago Tribune)

While it is impossible to write a definitive tome and make it 100 percent transparent to the nonscientist, this volume achieves the utmost clarity...Science is rarely good literature. The Ants is an exalting exception. (Thomas E. Lovejoy New York Times Book Review)

This magnificent and long-awaited volume is the definitive work on [ants]...Every imaginable area of interest to a biologist, a sociologist, even a curious citizen, is covered...At once remarkably exhaustive and parsimonious, the book does not stint on exhaustive detail wherever such detail is required. (William Brown Scientific American)

The beauty of this heavily illustrated tome is that it conveys this message to both the lay reader and the professional entomologist with equal aplomb. For the interested but ignorant, Hölldobler and Wilson provide a gentle introduction into the complex and bizarre reality of life as an ant...This myrmecological bible--with its 50-page key to ant classification, 60 pages of detailed anatomical drawings and hundreds of other sketches and photos--is a scientific and artistic accomplishment of historic significance. Yet it succeeds in convincing even the most casual reader of --as the first chapter is titled--the Importance of Ants. (Rick Weiss Washington Post)

The Ants is a stunningly attractive volume that belongs as much on the coffee table as it does on the lab bench... The 20 chapters are organized thematically, and they are written in a clear, accessible and engaging style... Only Hölldobler and Wilson could have written such a comprehensive and integrated treatment of ant biology. It represents a herculean labour of love, and it sets a new standard for synthetic works on major taxa...The Ants will undoubtedly remain in active service for decades, guiding both tourists and seasoned travellers through a strange and wonderful world. (Donald H. Feener, Jr., et al. Nature)

The Ants is not only another milestone in a remarkable career but also a high point in crossover publishing. For the specialist. Holldobler and Wilson bring elegance and order to a complex subject. For the curious layman, there is a glimpse into the workings of evolution. (R.Z. Sheppard Time)

Hölldobler and Wilson's mighty tome will surely take its place among the greatest of all entomology will inspire many new gereations of students with its blend of scholarship, enthusiasm, and unabashed delight. (Science)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 37 customer reviews
If you want a neat ant book read Journey to the Ants.
Almost any subject that the book addresses is explained at length in a clear and understandable way.
Roberto Caballero
It's extremely well written, but the language is generally geared towards entomologists.
Krisko Isackson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Mark Fitzsimmons on October 2, 1997
Format: Hardcover
by Mark Fitzsimmons

This is a fascinating, indispensible book for anyone interested in ants. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I have owned this book for three years and still haven't stopped reading it, probably never will. It is jam-packed with interesting and little known aspects of eusocialism in the ants, easily as diverse as its subject.

This is a semi-technical book, and entomological scientific jargon is used ubiquitously, so if you aren't interested in using the glossary frequently just to understand what you're reading, it may not be for you, but for the avid ant-watcher or scientist interested in social evolution, this is it.
With the incredible drawings (including representative pictures from every known ant genera) and informative graphs and charts that shed light on even the most complex and difficult to understand socio-biological patterns, it is beautiful to behold and fun to browse and just pluck little tidbits at random. Even the expanded table of contents is thought-provoking and fun to read.

"The Ants" does more than simply summarize current knowledge about ants. It goes into details of the many different ways in which ants have evolved social structures and critically evaluates theories of ant colony dynamics and eusocial evolution.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that makes you want to drop everything and dedicate all your time to the study of ants. There are not too many books out there that are so well-written that they induce such emotions. It is a sizable book, and for those outside the field of myrmecology, it probably would not be read cover-to-cover. But every page of this book is fascinating, and considering the time and effort the authors put into it, it is no surprise that it has been the target of numerous awards. The authors dedicate the book to the "next generation of myrmecologists", and no doubt they have convinced many individuals to take up the field. The authors convey to the reader that the study of ants is a thriving field, and there are lots of research questions unanswered in their study.
Space prohibits a detailed review, so I will list instead the parts of the book that I consider most interesting: 1. The variation in the mode of colony founding among the different species of ants. 2. The mating habits of ants, in particular the female-calling and aggregation syndromes. 3. The description of the experiment showing the role of male pheromones in carpenter ants. 4. The statistical analysis of the time of swarming. 5. The comparison between different hypotheses for polyandry. 6. The universal occurence across species of 'nanitics' or 'minims' in the first brood and their ergonomic advantages. 7. The parental manipulation and offspring consent hypotheses for the origin of worker castes. 8. Eusociality and chromosome number as a strategy for reducing genetic variance. 9. The role of learning in colony-level recognition. 10. The presence of conflict between queens and workers in the management of new queens and males. 11.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By "sminthian1" on November 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Of course this is a great book. But it's also very big...and very technical. I know more about insects than the normal person and I was lost after the first couple pages. If you want a neat ant book read Journey to the Ants. It's more down to earth and easier to read and written by the same people. I wouldn't try to tackle this until you got a few entomology courses under your belt....
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Clark B. Timmins on January 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is truly remarkable. Written in the cool, precise, and accessible language of a traditional biological monograph, the text presents a comprehensive understanding of myrmecology. It is difficult to imagine a relevant topic which is not touched upon in the work.

The large-format book runs to 732 pages, is divided into 20 chapters, and includes a glossary and an extensive annotated bibliography. The text is fully indexed, and includes about one thousand illustrations, photographs, graphs, and charts, and includes 24 full-color plates.

The book is the definitive source of introductory scientific knowledge on ants, and also functions as an authoritative encyclopedic reference for all myrmecologists. The book has been extensively cited in biological and entomological literature, and is often used as the text for graduate-level seminars in biology.

Aside from its use as a research tool the book holds general interest for anybody interested in ants, insects, animals, or biology. Although a fair amount of the text is technical and of an advanced scientific nature, huge sections are fully accessible to anyone with a desire to learn more about natural history and the biological sciences. It makes an interesting cover-to-cover read and also makes a great book to skim through and focus on whatever catches your eye.

Highly recommended, very enjoyable, and a book that you will enjoy owning, reading, re-reading, and referring to for years to come.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Roberto Caballero on June 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. If you love ants, or you are starting to study them, or simply like to read excellent science books, this one's for you. It is very well written, and, although it is technical in many aspects, it is a delight to read it. It is full of pictures, diagrams and graphs of almost any aspect you can imagine. Almost any subject that the book addresses is explained at length in a clear and understandable way. However, there are some parts of it where you need some background in biology and mathematics to understand the book.
Both Holldobler and Wilson, who have a strong background in ant studies, have outdone themselves. In this book you can learn about virtually any aspects concerning ants, from their anatomy to their classification and more. And besides this, the book also teaches a lot of things not only related to ants but more general, like evolution and kin selection (applied not only to ants but also to eusocial insects). Learning so much about the ants makes you change your viewpoint about this little animal and makes you think about how incredible nature (or God) is to create such beautiful, incredible animals.
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