Thieves, Deceivers, and Killers: Tales of Chemistry in Nature

3.57 avg rating
( 21 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780691004884: Thieves, Deceivers, and Killers: Tales of Chemistry in Nature
View all copies of this ISBN edition:
 
 

The tobacco plant synthesizes nicotine to protect itself from herbivores. The female moth broadcasts sex pheromones to attract a mate, while a soldier ant deploys an alarm pheromone to call for help. The carbon dioxide on a mammal's breath beckons hungry ticks and mosquitoes, while a flower's fragrance speaks to the honey bee. Indeed, much of the communication that occurs within and between various species of organisms is done not by sight, sound, or touch, but with chemicals. From mating to parenting, foraging to self-defense, plant and animal activities are accomplished largely by the secretion or exchange of organic chemicals. The fascinating and fast-developing science that encompasses these diverse phenomena is introduced here, by William Agosta, in a series of remarkable stories absolutely accessible to the general reader yet revelatory to chemists and biologists.


Among Agosta's characters are the organisms that steal, counterfeit, or interpret the chemical signals of other species for their own ends. We learn of seeds that mimic ant odors to facilitate their own dispersion and flies that follow the scent of truffles to lay their eggs. We read about pit vipers that react in terror when their flicking tongues detect a king snake, and slave-making ants incapable of finding their own food. And we meet ice-age people who ate birch fungus to relieve whipworms and early human hunters who used the urine of wolves to maneuver deer to favorable sites.


Agosta also chronicles the rapid development of the applied science that makes use of chemical ecology. As researchers deepen our understanding of the biological world, they are making economically significant discoveries (such as enzymes that remain stable in extreme heat), finding ways to reduce our reliance on manufactured pesticides, identifying new uses for traditional medicines, and developing sophisticated new pharmaceuticals effective in treating malaria and several cancers. On the horizon are antiviral agents derived from the chemical defenses of marine species.


From the exploits of flies to the high-stakes effort to cure human disease, Agosta's tour of chemical ecology grants any reader entrance to the invisible realm where chemistry determines life and death.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Review:

After sucking in the reader with a thrilling anthropomorphic account of an ant slave raid, Thieves, Deceivers and Killers relates tales of beetles, flowers, mussels, bacteria, and other organisms that eavesdrop on the chemical messages other species use to communicate. Not only do they eavesdrop on each other, they subvert the intercepted messages for their own ends, often killing the sender.

In contrast to Dr. Agosta's previous books on chemical messengers, wherein the material was organized by complexity or function, here he presents anecdotes demonstrating a particular biological interaction. There is the story of hawk moths, the only pollinators of western-prairie fringed orchids because their eyes are spaced just so; the one about ant-decapitating flies, who lay their eggs between an ant's head and abdomen (the decapitating occurs when the egg hatches into a maggot, which eats the ant's brain); and the case of parasitic wasps that can detect, from above ground, caterpillars hiding in ants' nests--although the ants themselves cannot detect the disguised caterpillars.

These episodes are followed by a glossary, so they are accessible to everyone. And though the anecdotes may seem to be very obscure or to involve overly exotic (and gross) creatures, Dr. Agosta amply demonstrates their relevance to human endeavors. Most notable are advances in the realms of pharmaceuticals (the discovery of new antibiotics in ants) and agriculture (the use of a fungus to control wild oats). Thieves, Deceivers and Killers ends with areas of active research and some unanswered questions, leaving us waiting eagerly for the sequel this title deserves. --Diana Gitig

From the Back Cover:

"Thieves, Deceivers, and Killers is elegantly written and a joy to read. I strongly recommend it."--James Gould, Princeton University

"This book is a significant contribution to the rapidly developing field of chemical ecology. Although written primarily for the nonscientist, it will be useful to scientists, particularly those who are not active workers in the field of chemical ecology. And even chemical ecologists may find new and fascinating information previously unknown to them because the field is so broadly based on all living organisms."--James Nation, editor, Journal of Chemical Ecology

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

William Agosta
Published by Princeton University Press (2000)
ISBN 10: 0691004889 ISBN 13: 9780691004884
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Poverty Hill Books
(Mt. Prospect, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Princeton University Press, 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. HARDCOVER, BRAND NEW COPY, Perfect Shape, Not a Remainder, No Black Remainder Mark 60-907Fast Shipping With Online Tracking, International Orders shipped Global Priority Air Mail, All orders handled with care and shipped promptly in secure packaging, we ship Mon-Sat and send shipment confirmation emails. Our customer service is friendly, we answer emails fast, accept returns and work hard to deliver 100% Customer Satisfaction!. Seller Inventory # 0710020037

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 16.95
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

William Agosta
Published by Princeton University Press (2000)
ISBN 10: 0691004889 ISBN 13: 9780691004884
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Poverty Hill Books
(Mt. Prospect, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Princeton University Press, 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. HARDCOVER, BRAND NEW COPY, Perfect Shape, No Black Remainder Mark,Fast Shipping With Online Tracking, International Orders shipped Global Priority Air Mail, All orders handled with care and shipped promptly in secure packaging, we ship Mon-Sat and send shipment confirmation emails. Our customer service is friendly, we answer emails fast, accept returns and work hard to deliver 100% Customer Satisfaction!. Seller Inventory # 9004137

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 16.95
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

William Agosta
Published by Princeton University Press (2000)
ISBN 10: 0691004889 ISBN 13: 9780691004884
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Irish Booksellers
(Portland, ME, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Princeton University Press, 2000. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0691004889

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 27.72
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

William Agosta
Published by Princeton University Press (2000)
ISBN 10: 0691004889 ISBN 13: 9780691004884
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Ergodebooks
(RICHMOND, TX, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Princeton University Press, 2000. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0691004889

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 52.66
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Agosta, William
ISBN 10: 0691004889 ISBN 13: 9780691004884
New Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
SPHINX BOOKSTORE
(OTTAWA, ON, Canada)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Condition: New. NEW. Seller Inventory # ZD 52

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 102.32
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 16.00
From Canada to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds