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Description - An Enthusiasm for Orchids by John Alcock

The male thynnine wasp's extreme sexual enthusiasm is crucial to reproduction of hammer orchids in the wild. Hammer orchids have co-evolved to produce odors identical to those manufactured by female thynnine wasps. The male wasp's superb sensitivity to the scent of his female mate is the basis for the hammer orchid's deceit--in effect, orchids exploit the male insect's highly adaptive sense of smell for their own propogation. While pollinating orchids is a waste of time, and thus a maladaptive activity for a wasp, his mistake comes about because he must react quickly whenever he senses a possible mate nearby. Alcock suggests that, "for insects, he who hesitates is lost, although perhaps it would be better to say that he who hesitates often loses a chance to pass on his genes." This book abounds with clever explanations for how these exceptionally complex flowers came to be shaped as they are. The reader can explore many aspects of orchid biology and history ranging from how some species avoid inbreeding, to the origins of orchids from an ancestor that belonged to the asparagus family. Examining each component of an orchid's flower, Alcock explains how the various parts work together to produce the plant's minute offspring. Each element of an orchid, as quirky as it may seem, is biologically significant, bearing the imprint of natural selection. Readers can share in the delight that Darwin and all other orchid enthusiasts have felt in making sense of even the smallest of details of these most wonderful plants.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195182743
ISBN-10: 019518274X
Format: Hardback
(214mm x 156mm x 22mm)
Pages: 316
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publish Date: 5-Jan-2006
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - John Alcock

Dr. Alcock's research deals with the evolution of diversity in insect mating systems. He studies selected species of desert insects in Arizona and Western Australia, in an attempt to document the variety of male mate-locating techniques in various bees, wasps, butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects. The goal of his research is to test hypotheses on the adaptive value of the different ways in which males find mating partners.

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