Book Review

Photographer and biologist Mark W. Moffett takes readers on a journey around the globe, exploring the always fascinating—and sometimes violent—hidden world of ants

  • Reviewed by Roger Di Silvestro
  • May 17, 2010
Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions

By Mark W. Moffett

Illustrated. 280 pages. University of California Press. 

Mark Moffett is a man who loves his ants. In fact, the opening line in his new book, Adventures Among Ants (University of California Press), declares, “My first memory is of ants.” As one of the few biologists to get his Ph.D. under ant-expert and master theoretician of biology E.O. Wilson, Moffett since childhood has stored away thousands of memories of the ants he has encountered all over the world, from India to Nigeria, Australia to California. And in his book, he shares those memories with his readers.

The text is part travelogue: Moffett describes his work during relentless rain in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, or how he lost about 20 pounds while living on a diet of rice and caramels in India. But the ants occupy center stage, and he shows readers how they mate and breed, how they search for food or grow their own crops, how they attack and how they defend. He offers a rich account of ant natural history and biology designed to appeal to the general reader. The chapters are arranged geographically, so that as readers move through the book, they linger for a time with the ants of Africa, and later with Argentine ants, and so on, absorbing not only natural history but a sense of the people and places where the ants live.

The book itself is a fine specimen, packed with full-color photographs of ants taken by Moffett, whose expertise with the camera must match his expertise on ant biology—the pictures are stunning. Printed on glossy, heavy paper and in a cloth-bound hardcover of the sort too rarely seen today, the book does justice to its subject.

Weaver ants (left) and army ants (below) are among the "cast of trillions" featured in Moffett's book.

Roger Di Silvestro is a senior editor at National Wildlife .

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