Planet of the Bugs

Evolution and the Rise of Insects

Scott Richard Shaw

Planet of the Bugs
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Scott Richard Shaw

256 pages | 12 color plates, 31 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $27.50 ISBN: 9780226163611 Will Publish September 2014
E-book $18.00 ISBN: 9780226163758 Will Publish September 2014
Dinosaurs, however toothy, did not rule the earth—and neither do humans. But what were and are the true potentates of our planet? Insects, says Scott Richard Shaw—millions and millions of insects. Starting in the shallow oceans of ancient Earth and ending in the far reaches of outer space—where, Shaw proposes, insect-like aliens may have achieved similar preeminence—Planet of the Bugs spins a sweeping account of insects’ evolution from humble arthropod ancestors into the bugs we know and love (or fear and hate) today.

Leaving no stone unturned, Shaw explores how evolutionary innovations such as small body size, wings, metamorphosis, and parasitic behavior have enabled insects to disperse widely, occupy increasingly narrow niches, and survive global catastrophes in their rise to dominance. Through buggy tales by turns bizarre and comical—from caddisflies that construct portable houses or weave silken aquatic nets to trap floating debris, to parasitic wasp larvae that develop in the blood of host insects and, by storing waste products in their rear ends, are able to postpone defecation until after they emerge—he not only unearths how changes in our planet’s geology, flora, and fauna contributed to insects’ success, but also how, in return, insects came to shape terrestrial ecosystems and amplify biodiversity. Indeed, in his visits to modern earth’s hyperdiverse rain forests to highlight the current insect extinction crisis, Shaw reaffirms just how critical these tiny beings are to planetary health and human survival.

In this age of honeybee die-offs and bedbugs hitching rides in the spines of library books, Planet of the Bugs charms with humor, affection, and insight into the world’s six-legged creatures, revealing an essential importance that resonates across time and space.
Dena M. Smith | University of Colorado at Boulder
“A very enjoyable read. Planet of the Bugs is packed full of really great information from a unique ‘buggy’ perspective and is done with humor and fun.”
Prologue. Time Travel with Insects
1. The Buggy Planet
2. Rise of the Arthropods
The Cambrian period, 541–485 million years ago, and the Ordovician period, 485–444 million years ago
3. Silurian Landfall
The Silurian period, 444–419 million years ago
4. Six Feet under the Moss
The Devonian period, 419–359 million years ago
5. Dancing on Air
The Carboniferous period, 359–299 million years ago
6. Paleozoic Holocaust
The Permian period, 299–252 million years ago
7. Triassic Spring
The Triassic period, 252–201 million years ago
8. Picnicking in Jurassic Park
The Jurassic period, 201–145 million years ago
9. Cretaceous Bloom and Doom
The Cretaceous period, 145–66 million years ago
10. Cenozoic Reflections
The Cenozoic era, 66 million years ago to the present day
Postscript. The Buggy Universe Hypothesis
About the Author
Suggested Reading
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