Book review: Fossil Insects: An introduction to palaeoentomology, by David Penney and James E Jepson (with artwork by Richard Bizley)

Jon Trevelyan (UK)

This is another of Dr David Penney’s (founder and owner of the excellent Siri Scientific Press, whose books I have frequently reviewed in this magazine) books on fossil spiders and insects. It is co-written with Dr James Jepson, whose research in Germany has involved studying fossil insects preserved in rock. The book is also beautifully illustrated by Richard Bizley, with lovely reconstructions of some of the insects in the environments they inhabited.

As the authors write: “Palaeoentomology represents the interface between two huge scientific disciplines: palaeontology — the study of fossils, and entomology — the study of insects. However, fossils rarely feature extensively in books on insects, and likewise, insects rarely feature in books about fossils. Similarly, college or university palaeontology courses rarely have an entomological component and entomology courses do not usually consider the fossil record of insects in any detail. This is not due to a lack of insect fossils. The fossil record of insects is incredibly diverse in terms of taxonomic scope, age range (Devonian to Recent), mode of preservation (amber and rock) and geographical distribution (fossil insects have been recorded from all continents, including Antarctica).”

Therefore, this book is intended to help fill the gaps by providing an accessible introduction to some of the best-preserved fossil insects from a wide range of deposits from around the world. It also covers insect behaviour and ecology (to the extent that they can be extrapolated from the fossil record), sub-fossil insects, trace fossils and the longevity of insect species. And, as with all books published by Siri Scientific Press, it is beautifully illustrated by full-colour photographs. It also contains an extensive bibliography for those persons who want to take this fascinating subject further.

David Penney has had a lifelong interest in spiders, with 25 years of experience working with amber fossils. He is also a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. James Jepson is a Humboldt Research Fellow at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin in Germany. They are both Fellows of the Royal Entomological Society.

Fossil Insects by David Penney and James E Jepson (with artwork by Richard Bizley), Siri Scientific Press, Manchester (2014). 223 pp., softback, ISBN: 978-0-9574530-6-5

Available from UKGE: Fossil Insects: An introduction to palaeoentomology

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