On a Trail With Ants – A Handbook of The Ants of Peninsular India
One of the most welcome, natural history titles to have been published last year was the extremely well put together and printed On a Trail With Ants – A Handbook of the Ants of Peninsular India by Ajay Narendra (an expert on the navigational abilities of ants) and Sunil Kumar M. (who has documented the ant diversity of Bangalore).
This vital book should be a permanent part of the travel kit of those who escape to wild places and will prove extremely useful to those who seek to identify the ants in their backyards too.
The best thing about the book is its simple but very credible text and the fact that it concentrates on the ants of India. The last, truly comprehensive book was a volume in the Fauna of British India published way back in 1903!
The very first page of chapter one graphically highlights the importance of ants by pointing out that in the tropics, ants comprise 25 per cent of the total weight of all land-living animals, obviously making up for their tiny size by sheer numbers. The book takes us through the evolution of ants, their lifecycles, nesting and feeding behaviour to the way they communicate and their “one-for-all-and-all-for-one” strategy for survival. We learn for instance that chemicals help ants to “convey information about the availability of food, recruiting the specific number of workers to a particular food source, alerting nest mates about intruders and requesting food from nest mates.”
Such chemical exchanges, we are informed, are supplemented by tactile clues that include tapping each other’s antennae to elicit a specific response. Boxes, illustrations, images and informative captions make it possible for the reader to absorb the wealth of information at his or her own pace. Sadly, the book is unlikely to be read either by politicians or social activists who have teamed up of late to unravel the fragile tapestry of forest India by tampering with protective forest laws.
Such urban people badly need to know, for instance, it is possible to judge the health of ecosystems by the diversity of ants present and that when plant diversity is reduced (by commercialising forests or turning them into farms), the diversity of ants falls dramatically and their crucial ecological services are thus lost.
At Rs. 600 per copy, the book is a steal.
By Ajay Narendra and Sunil Kumar M., Published by: Self-published, Soft cover, Price: Rs. 600/-