Browsing Life sciences by Types
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Moths: Their biology, diversity and evolutionMoths is an accessible introduction to the stunning diversity, life habits and evolution of moths. This iconic insect group encompasses 128 of the 135 families of the scaly winged insects (Lepidoptera), with some 140,000 known species. Moths are among the most successful of the Earth’s inhabitants, with an ancient history, some fossils being dated to 190 million years old. This book traces the structure and development of these winged insects and reveals some of their extraordinary adaptations, such as caterpillars that communicate with ants, as well as their ruthless survival tactics – including blood-sucking, feeding on the tears of sleeping birds, and cannibalism of their own mothers. It also exposes their essential roles in ecosystems and manifold interactions with humans. Often considered denizens of the night, hopelessly allured by lamps and mean to fabrics, the book shines a spotlight on moths, illuminating the bright side of their astonishing diversity.
The origin of evolutionary storytellingPhylogenetics emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century as a discipline dedicated to constructing descriptive and explanatory narratives that traced the evolutionary origins of taxa and traits. Because ancestors and evolutionary transformations are empirically inaccessible, phylogeneticists had no choice but to use their more or less informed imagination to gain access to this epistemic hinterland. The explanatory power of phylogenetic hypotheses resides in their ability to trace back traits to their evolutionary origins. Hypothetical ancestors therefore became important epistemic tools as they were deliberately equipped with characters that could function as suitable evolutionary precursors for traits of interest. I argue that the precursor potential of hypothetical ancestors therefore became the first, more or less objective, phylogenetic optimality criterion.