Many people (or at least anybody who has seen Antz) are vaguely aware that ants possess some incredible qualities. I still remember learning in grammar school that some ants could lift 50 times their body weight. Unfortunately, few of us have the opportunity to get beyond the random factoid - or Frank Sinatra's classic song 1960 High Hopes ("Just what makes that little old ant/Think he'll move that rubber tree plant...").
In some ways, Dr. Mark Moffet's Adventures among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions reads like a response to Sinatra. His book explores several species of ants and the sociobiology that allows them to accomplish great feats. I particularly love how the book combines the personal narrative (the "global safari") with the hard science. Dr. Moffett extols not just the adventure side of science, but also the science side of science. The chapters read like a scientific investigation, with certain questions or hypotheses about a particular ant's behavior, joined with field observations (often accompanied with amazing photos). You will learn a lot of amazing trivia after reading Adventures among Ants (for example, a thousandth of a gram of leafcutter ant pheromone is enough to lead a column of ants around the world 60 times). But, more importantly, the book explains some of the larger principles of ant behavior and entomology.
The photos in Adventures among Ants, all taken by Dr. Moffett himself, really allows readers to visualize and sympathize with the ants. In addition to being a scientist, Dr. Moffett is also an acclaimed photographer and it shows. I found myself in awe. Dr. Moffett was able to capture photos of ants up close and personal, exhibiting different behaviors and even personalities. My favorite is of a marauder ant killing a black any and lifting it into the air (p. 52) (to see some of Dr. Moffet's photos, check out the links I've posted in the comments section below). I can't imagine the patience and hard work that went into those photos - much less the text! Just the photos in Adventures among Ants are worth the price of the book.
Overall, reading Adventures among Ants feels like an adventure. This is easily one of the best nature books I've read in a long time. You'll come away thinking about ants and science in a whole new light. I'd recommend it to bookworms interested in the natural world, but also anybody who's ever wondered why that little old ant thought he could move a rubber tree plant.
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