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The Biomechanics of Insect Flight:
Form, Function, Evolution
Robert Dudley

Winner of the 2000 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Biological Science, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 2002 | $79.95 | £66.95 | ISBN: 9780691094915
496 pp. | 6 x 9 | 10 tables, 35 line illus., 6 color plates
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From the rain forests of Borneo to the tenements of Manhattan, winged insects are a conspicuous and abundant feature of life on earth. Here, Robert Dudley presents the first comprehensive explanation of how insects fly. The author relates the biomechanics of flight to insect ecology and evolution in a major new work of synthesis.

The book begins with an overview of insect flight biomechanics. Dudley explains insect morphology, wing motions, aerodynamics, flight energetics, and flight metabolism within a modern phylogenetic setting. Drawing on biomechanical principles, he describes and evaluates flight behavior and the limits to flight performance. The author then takes the next step by developing evolutionary explanations of insect flight. He analyzes the origins of flight in insects, the roles of natural and sexual selection in determining how insects fly, and the relationship between flight and insect size, pollination, predation, dispersal, and migration. Dudley ranges widely--from basic aerodynamics to muscle physiology and swarming behavior--but his focus is the explanation of functional design from evolutionary and ecological perspectives.

The importance of flight in the lives of insects has long been recognized but never systematically evaluated. This book addresses that shortcoming. Robert Dudley provides an introduction to insect flight that will be welcomed by students and researchers in biomechanics, entomology, evolution, ecology, and behavior.


"Robert Dudley has written a remarkably comprehensive account of our knowledge of insect flight. . . . No other recent book covers the field so fully ."--R. McNeill Alexander, Nature

"An exhaustive compendium of everything known about insect flight, the hows, whys, and evolution. Dudley cites almost 2000 works, making this an effective reference to two centuries of work."--New Scientist

"Somewhat unusually for such a broad-scope book, Dudley fully addresses all three aspects of the subtitle. He has packed it with a plethora of interesting facts, observations, and questions that should interest a wide audience."--Graham W. Elmes, The Times Higher Education Supplement

"This book explores the topic in encyclopedic fashion. . . . [It] covers much more than the title implies."--John S. Edwards, New Biological Books

"This book explores the topic in encyclopedic fashion with a copious treasury of references and a welcome respect for the history of the subject. . . . A valuable resource."--John S. Edwards, Quarterly Review of Biology

"The paperback issue of Biomechanics of Insect Flight is a worthwhile book for investigators of any aspect of insect biology, a necessary book for those in the field of animal flight, and certainly a valuable reference book for the casual reader."--James Usherwood, Journal of Experimental Biology


"This work is a remarkable accomplishment, something never before even attempted. . . . Especially noteworthy are the remarkable way it combines biomechanical with ecological and evolutionary thinking and the extent to which it brings in non-English literature. . . . It will have a long and useful life."--Steven Vogel, Duke University, author of Life in Moving Fluids: The Physical Biology of Flow and Life's Devices: The Physical World of Animals and Plants

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File created: 4/20/2017

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