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The Thermal Warriors: Strategies of Insect Survival [Paperback]

Bernd Heinrich
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1, 1999 0674883411 978-0674883413 1st

All bodily activity is the result of the interplay of vastly complex physiological processes, and all of these processes depend on temperature. For insects, the struggle to keep body temperature within a suitable range for activity and competition is often a matter of life and death.

A few studies of temperature regulation in butterflies can be found dating back to the late 1800s, but only recently have scientists begun to study the phenomenon in other insects. In The Thermal Warriors Bernd Heinrich explains how, when, and in general what insects regulate their body temperature and what it means to them. As he shows us, the ingenuity of the survival strategies insects have evolved in the irreducible crucible of temperature is astonishing: from shivering and basking, the construction of turrets (certain tiger beetles), and cooling with liquid feces to stilting (some desert ants and beetles), "panting" in grasshoppers and "sweating cicada," and counter- and alternating-currents of blood flow for heat retention and heat loss.

In The Thermal Warriors Heinrich distills his great reference work, The Hot-Blooded Insects, to its essence: the most significant and fascinating stories that illustrate general principles, all conveyed in the always engaging prose we have come to expect from this author.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

We humans are warm-blooded and thus rarely face a temperature crisis, unless we get stranded in a snow storm or suffer some other such misfortune. For insects, however, temperature control is a ceaseless and crucial matter because such small creatures gain and lose heat far more rapidly than we large ones do. The smallest insects are adapted to exist at the ambient temperature of their specialized habitat, whether it be desert heat or glacial cold. But larger insects, particularly those that fly, heat and cool themselves by a variety of means, including basking, shelter construction, shivering, sweating, and blood-circulation control and so are able to function over a wider temperature range than small insects do. Heinrich (biology, Univ. of Vermont) presents a fascinating review of the strange world of insect thermoregulation, describing beetles that walk on long legs to escape the heat of the desert sand and larvae that cool themselves by spreading rectal fluid on their bodies. Gifted with the rare ability to communicate complex information in simple, clear language, he summarizes the main points covered in his larger, more technical work, The Hot-Blooded Insects (LJ 4/15/93), and includes recent developments on the subject. This book will appeal to both informed lay readers and scholars and is appropriate for all larger science collections.?Annette Aiello, Smithsonian Tropical Research Inst., Panama
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Scientific American

"For insects ... the struggle to keep body temperature within an acceptable range is constant." Heinrich writes, "and often it is a matter of life or death. Each insect is a 'thermal warrior' in a contest with its predators and competitors in the context of its physical environment." Heinrich tells of this struggle as it affects insects, from a glacier-dwelling midge to a variety of bees, ants, moths and termites. He writes with an unflagging sense of wonder at what insects can accomplish. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1st edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674883411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674883413
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,386,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent information, easy to understand October 17, 2000
By Lineola
Bernd Heinrich has brought us yet another book that appeals both to the complete layperson and the scientist and provides enough detail and entertainment to keep both happy. The Thermal Warriors provides a fascinating look into the details of insect thermodynamics. Did you know that bees and most other flying insects have to shiver their muscles to warm-up their engines before flying because their flight muscles are adapted to work best at flight temperatures? Did you know that some butterflies have to stop and rest frequently on even moderately sunny days to keep from overheating?
Heinrich has taken his in-depth experience in this field and created a summary version for those that want to know more, but don't have any interest in wading through a 600 page monolith. The book is split up into different "problems" that insects must overcome to achieve flight, be active in different environments, and utilize different body shapes and sizes. He explains the physics of the various problems encountered and adaptations to overcome the problems in an easy to read manner. He frequently uses car engine analogies to help things make more sense.
My only qualm with this book is that it was over too soon!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!!! September 8, 2003
Really neat info on how insects keep warm/cool down and why they move in those ways - shivering, bouncing, etc. The text is really easy to read and interesting to get into - the drawings sprinkled in throughout help make understanding that much easier. I don't have a science background - just have an insatiable hunger to learn about our natural world and this book definitely filled one corner of that hunger......Ever see a dragonfly stand up like its doing a headstand? Well its not because it like the head rush (or maybe that too but the book doesn't talk to that) - the reason they do that is on p. 66 - "When the sun is directly overhead some dragonflies assume the 'oblisk' position, which minimizes surface area exposed to solar heating while maximizing the area available for convective cooling." ....all to say, it was a hot day and the dragonfly needed to cool down :) Excellent book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Regulating Body Temperature - the Key to Insect Survival February 20, 2009
The Thermal Warriors: Strategies of Insect Survival
Author: Bernd Heinrich
221 Pages
Publication Date: 1996
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
USBN 0-674-88341-1

When I run, or work outside, or bask in the sunshine at the beach, I get hot. When I can't take any more of the heat, I perspire, I take a break, and I sit in the shade. Likewise, in winter, when I wait for the bus or sit on a ski lift and a cold wind begins to blow, I shiver to warm up. Surprisingly, insects perform similar actions to regulate their body temperature. Bernd Heinrich, author of The Thermal Warriors: Strategies of Insect Survival, introduces us to this concept in the preface to his interesting and in depth work by stating, "We humans engage in endurance contests [marathons] such as these only rarely, for the sheer fun or foolishness of it, or for some symbolic trifle. For insects, however, the struggle to keep body temperature within an acceptable range is constant, and often it is a matter of life or death. Each insect is a "thermal warrior" in a constant struggle with its predators and competitors in the context of its physical environment" (viii). Heinrich, as a physiologist, ecologist, and evolutionary biologist, expertly conveys the fact that thermoregulation is an essential part of insect life.
Heinrich begins his book by explaining that thermoregulation is not a relatively new aspect of insect life. The earliest insects, arising at least 350 million years ago, had body temperatures that were a direct reflection of ambient temperature. Thermoregulation has a lot to do with flight, the operation of the insect's flight motor, and the temperature of the thorax and abdomen.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual topic well presented November 26, 2002
The thermodynamics of insects, from flight and thermoregulation to "thermal wars" between predator and prey. This is fascinating hard science presented in a user-friendly format. Short and pithy.
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