Caterpillars are excellent model organisms for understanding how multiple selective forces shape the ecology and evolution of insects and organisms in general. Recent research using the tools of modern molecular biology, genetics, metabolomics, microbial ecology, experiments conducted at a global level, network analysis, and statistical analyses of global data sets, combined with basic natural history, are yielding exciting new insights into caterpillar adaptations and ecology. The best way to view these research advances is within a framework of tri-trophic interactions. This is a timely topic for research given the central role of caterpillars and plants in the ecology and trophic structure of terrestrial communities. Caterpillars in the Middle is unique in that it contains chapters from a team of experts on a diversity of key topics within caterpillar-plant interactions. This volume brings together contributions by researchers from around the globe, working in both tropical and temperate habitats, and in human-managed and more natural habitats. It is a significant contribution to our understanding of insect biology, and the role that insects, as represented by caterpillars, play in a world increasingly dominated by humans and one in which threats to insect biodiversity are mounting.
Dr Robert J Marquis is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology and the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center, University of Missouri–St. Louis. His research focuses on the interactions between host plant traits and the insects associated with plants, including natural enemies of caterpillars. Both temperate and tropical systems have been the focus of his research. He and his students and collaborators also study the impacts of forest management on caterpillar populations, all against a background of changing climate.
Dr Suzanne Koptur is Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences in the Institute of Environment, International Center for Tropical Botany, Florida International University. Her research focuses on understanding plant/animal interactions with a focus on mutualisms, especially plant antiherbivore defence and pollination. She is also involved in the cultivation of native wildflowers for the creation of butterfly gardens, ecological schoolyards, and habitat restoration for rare species.