Biology

Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution

The fascinating and complex evolutionary relationship of the monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant

Hardcover

Price:
$29.95 / £25.00
ISBN:
Published:
03/27/2017
Copyright:
2017
Pages:
296
Size:
7 x 9 in.
Illus:
37 color illus. 35 line illus.
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Monarch butterflies are one of nature’s most recognizable creatures, known for their bright colors and epic annual migration from the United States and Canada to Mexico. Yet there is much more to the monarch than its distinctive presence and mythic journeying. In Monarchs and Milkweed, Anurag Agrawal presents a vivid investigation into how the monarch butterfly has evolved closely alongside the milkweed—a toxic plant named for the sticky white substance emitted when its leaves are damaged—and how this inextricable and intimate relationship has been like an arms race over the millennia, a battle of exploitation and defense between two fascinating species.

The monarch life cycle begins each spring when it deposits eggs on milkweed leaves. But this dependency of monarchs on milkweeds as food is not reciprocated, and milkweeds do all they can to poison or thwart the young monarchs. Agrawal delves into major scientific discoveries, including his own pioneering research, and traces how plant poisons have not only shaped monarch-milkweed interactions but have also been culturally important for centuries. Agrawal presents current ideas regarding the recent decline in monarch populations, including habitat destruction, increased winter storms, and lack of milkweed—the last one a theory that the author rejects. He evaluates the current sustainability of monarchs and reveals a novel explanation for their plummeting numbers.

Lavishly illustrated with more than eighty color photos and images, Monarchs and Milkweed takes readers on an unforgettable exploration of one of nature’s most important and sophisticated evolutionary relationships.


Awards and Recognition

  • Winner of a 2017 National Outdoor Book Award in Nature and Environment
  • One of Forbes.com’s 10 Best Biology Books of 2017, chosen by GrrlScientist
  • Honorable Mention for the 2018 PROSE Award in Popular Science & Popular Mathematics, Association of American Publishers
  • Longlisted for the 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books, Young Adult Science Books
  • Winner of the 2018 CBHL Award of Excellence in Gardening and Gardens, Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries