A book about fireflies: Silent Sparks by Sara Lewis

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Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies is about fireflies.

How do they light up? Why do they light up?

It is axiomatic in nature that flashy displays are related to mating. Among the flashy displays various animals have come up with, a few actually flash, and among those, the flashing of the firefly is probably the most well known. And, yes, it is a mating strategy.

FireflyThere are almost 2,000 species of fireflies and they live around the world. Not all flash, but they are phylogenetically related to those that do so we use the vernacular term “firefly” to refer to all of them. (The fireflies that don’t flash use odor in their mating.) Some fireflies glow as worms rather than as flies.

Light pollution affects fireflies, because they normally operate in dark. Habitat destruction is also a problem. Fireflies have been seen as a canary species, indicating environmental quality in the areas they live.

Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies includes a guide to North American fireflies.

The book’s author, Sara Lewis gave this Ted Talk:

Biologist Sara Lewis has spent the past 20 years getting to the bottom of the magic and wonder of fireflies. In this charming talk, she tells us how and why the beetles produce their silent sparks, what happens when two fireflies have sex, and why one group of females is known as the firefly vampire. (It’s not pretty.)

The notes section of this book is particularly interesting. Each chapter has an annotated bibliography that includes reference to academic sources as well as trade and science journalistic sources, and some on line resources. This is followed by a full reference list. the book’s format (at least the one I reviewed) is medium size and cloth bound, so it is not a field guide.

In some ways, this is a piece of literature packed with science and conservation. Great illustrations.

Sample chapter

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

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