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The Case of the Monkeys that Fell from the Trees and Other Mysteries in Tropical Nature

by Susan E.  Quinlan

Published by Boyds Mills Press, 2003
128 pages
ISBN: 0-399-23990-1

Ages 10 - 14

Biologist Laurence Gilbert was fascinated with Heliconius butterflies. These spectacular creatures lay their eggs on one species of passionvine leaves, and the resulting caterpillars often devour those leaves to the extent that the plant is seriously debilitated. As Gilbert studied the Heliconius and the passionvines, he observed that the female butterflies appeared to identify the plant by the shape of its leaves, sometimes mistakenly lighting on similarly structured plants. Gilbert went on to notice a surprisingly wide variation in passionvine leaves and wondered why a single species would develop different leaf shapes. He finally concluded that the passionvine was producing leaves similar to common plants that grew in the same area as a form of camouflage to discourage Heliconius butterflies from laying eggs, and so preempting caterpillar damage. This story is one of 11 intriguing tales of tropical forest mystery, each solved by the scientists who search for answers to provocative questions. The science mysteries are written in an appealing and easily readable style, while intermittent black-and-white illustrations add another element of interest to the text. CCBC categories: The Natural World.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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