260 pages, 450 colour photos
Fabulous photographs of the teeming animal life that surrounds us – which we only see as fast moving blobs.
Smaller, on average, than a human finger, creatures climbing, scampering, and flying out of sight make up 99 percent of all animal life visible to the naked eye. This is the "smaller majority" that we meet eye-to-eye, often for the first time and certainly as never before, in Piotr Naskrecki's spectacular book. A large-format volume of over 400 exquisite, full-color photographs, some depicting animals never before captured with a camera, The Smaller Majority takes us on a visual journey into the remote world of organisms that, however little known, overlooked, or even reviled, are critical to the biodiversity of the tropics, and to the life of our planet.
Here are the species who truly dominate the tropics, both in terms of their diversity and the ecological functions they play – invertebrates such as insects, arachnids, or flatworms, but also little-known vertebrates such as the pygmy chameleons of Madagascar or legless, underground frog kin known as caecilians; here is behavior never before documented, as in katydids preying upon one another, photographed in places few have visited. Using pioneering camera techniques that allow us to see the world of these creatures from their point of view, The Smaller Majority exposes the environment in which they live, the threats they face, and the devastating impact their disappearance may have. A unique introduction to the marvelous variety of the overlooked life under our feet, Naskrecki's book returns us to a child's sense of wonder with a fully informed, deeply felt understanding of the importance of so much of the world's smaller, teeming life.
"In The Smaller Majority, Piotr Naskrecki, director of the Invertebrate Diversity Initiative at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, explores a miniature world, transporting the reader through three major biomes – rainforest, savanna and desert – to encounter the microcosms of animals that mostly would 'fit inside a matchbox.' Naskrecki's photography offers insights into the biology and conservation of these creatures; the sumptuous illustrations that make up the bulk of the book are obviously the work of a fine craftsman [...] With spectacular and sometimes bizarre images [...] Naskrecki drives home his point that tiny creatures display enormous biodiversity. The Smaller Majority will go a long way toward increasing the public's appreciation of, and support for, conserving small animals."
– Roger Harris, American Scientist
"This is more than a collection of excellent photographs and words – it is one person's private view of the small majority's world, one person's ardent, even passionate, attempt to help others get closer and understand the wildlife in miniature that surrounds us all. And his passion is infectious."
– Richard Jones, BBC Wildlife
"The text provides ample background and perspective for the animals included, but the main theme is illustration, as in lush, detailed photographs of the subjects. From a leaf-tailed gecko almost indistinguishable from its perch on a plant to an African weaver ant busy constructing a leaf-based nest with strands of silk, individual subjects provide a glimpse into the varieties of behavior, habitats, diet, and interaction with other animals. Often, however – as in the portrait of the genus Gusteracantha spider or the fig eater butterfly – the natural beauty of the animal's life-form projects its own reason for being included here. Perspective and background may educate, but the overriding impression of this book is aesthetic appreciation of tiny creatures."
– C.R. Stalkind, Bloomsbury Review
"If photographing insects and other small creatures is your passion, you absolutely must have this book. Not only is it the most excellent book that I have seen on this subject, but it is wonderful quality for the dollar value as well. As a conservation biologist and entomologist, Naskrecki is eminently qualified for his task, and his close-up photography is enviable [...] Every page elicits a gasp of wonder at the perfection of nature's design, and its frequently jewel-like beauty. Who would not gape at the sight of a four-eyed jumping spider, or an orange polka-dotted spittle bug nestled in its foamy froth? And if it is scientific detail you are after, you definitely have it here. Naskrecki does get very specific and technical in some sections. He devotes a few pages at the end of the book to a discussion of the photography of small subjects, which is quite helpful. The photographs are greatly enhanced by Harvard University Press's decision to use the exclusive Pantone Hexachrome colour technology, rarely used for book-length projects."
– Joy McDonell, Canadian Camera
"In [Naskrecki's] stunning new coffee-table book, he sets out to 'celebrate everything that is small and misunderstood' [...] The heart of the book is undeniably his photographs – over 270 pages of glorious colour, outlandish patterns, and extraordinary anatomy. Macroscopic photography is typically haunted by poor depth of field, but these photos leap off the page in their clarity. There are the requisite portraits and headshots, and these are spectacular. But there are also some wonderful depictions of ecological interactions [...] The photos are generously complemented by informative text, both detailed photo captions and general introductory sections on the habitats of interest and the biology of each animal group portrayed. The general introductory sections merge personal narrative with gee-whiz natural-history accounts and details of evolutionary trajectories [...] This book is a welcome burst of genuine joy in natural history."
– Diane Srivastava, Discovery
"More than 400 spectacular, colour photographs of an excellent quality accompany the text [...] In my opinion, Naskrecki's book represents an exception in many respects."
– T. Soldan, European Journal of Entomology
"The vast preponderance of the world's animals – insects and other invertebrates – rarely get much of a look in. But it's this 'smaller majority' that fascinates photographer Piotr Naskrecki [...] The photos themselves are stunning – interestingly composed and well lit. There's a particularly arresting shot of a helmeted iguana, the lizard's head looming out of the page. However, what is surprising, nay shocking, is that the real joy of this book lies in the text, traditionally where most photographic tomes drop the ball. Naskrecki is a biologist (he works on katydids – hence their abundance in the book), and his writing is both poetic and remarkably accurate and informative. Much of the text is also quite personal, effectively communicating his love of the natural world. A pleasant surprise."
– Geordie Torr, Geographical
"I loved (if that's the mot juste) the richly-hued beasties who crawl through Piotr Naskrecki's survey of insects and mini-reptiles."
– Boyd Tonkin, The Independent
"Naskrecki, a conservation biologist and magical photographer, has produced a dazzling experience, not only for nature enthusiasts but for anyone inspired by colour and design. Hundreds of small creatures were photographed in tropical forests, savannahs, and deserts across the globe. Among chameleons and katydids are life forms stranger than anything on distant planets, yet their lessons in biology often hold true in one's own back garden."
– Michael Viney, The Irish Times
"Little critters of the jungle and desert are all ready for their close-ups here, and they are spectacular."
– L.K. Hanson, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[Naskrecki] skillfully uses a macro lens to show us a world we seldom see: what he calls 'match-box sized' creatures, mostly insects and invertebrates. Although they make up more than 90 percent of the visible animal species in our world, it's likely that you'll be seeing most of the 450 creatures he has chosen for the first time. They are beautiful, sometimes strange, always fascinating. You or a photographer you know could explore in a similar way the small world found in a back yard. All you need is a sharp eye and a suitable camera. Naskrecki provides the inspiration."
– Jim Williams, The Minneapolis–St. Paul Star Tribune
"It's hard to not to like a book as beautifully photographed as this one. Naskrecki is a technically impeccable photographer. His 400 images bring us fascinatingly close. We're eye to eye with pygmy chameleons in Madagascar, the red-eyed tree frog from Costa Rica, the West African gecko of Guinea, plus all kinds of beetles, ants and butterflies."
– Charlie Fidelman, The Montreal Gazette
"Piotr Naskrecki of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University used pioneering camera techniques to picture praying mantises, grasshoppers, spiders, geckos, chameleons and much in between, in tropical forests, savannahs and deserts [...] With all the enthusiasm for finding extraterrestrial life, says Naskrecki, it never ceases to amaze him how little interest there is in investigating life on Earth."
– New Scientist
"Piotr Naskrecki has traveled the world with his camera, seeking out rare and little-known creatures, and The Smaller Majority is a book filled with some of the most beautiful wildlife photographs I have ever seen."
– Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books
"Conservation biologist and accomplished photographer Naskrecki offers the reader a trip to a fascinating world of close-ups of animal life; most are smaller than a human finger [...] Naskrecki traveled the globe with the Rapid Assessment Program expeditions searching for undiscovered creatures. The accompanying essays are as spellbinding as the photography [...] [This book is] a treasure and deserves a special place in your bookshelf."
– Florence Waszkelewkz Clowes, Polish American Journal
"It's often said that you should buy books of gorgeous, light-saturated photographs for the images alone. Naskrecki's work does contain stunning and unusual nature photographs, even more striking for their subject matter. These photographs of mites, katydids, grasshoppers, lizards display life at the smallest scale ('smaller than a human finger'), and we are fortunate for Naskrecki's patience. It's impossible to tell how he took these head-on shots of bugs, views of one insect devouring another or of frogs' eyelids, but the result is beautiful. Not only the photographs are valuable: the writing also shines. Naskrecki's exuberant, expert knowledge of this microscopic world has been distilled down to the most arresting details. Crisp, enjoyable prose, clearly explains complex biological processes. Naskrecki wants to raise awareness of the perils of extinction and habitat loss, but he also wants to reawaken a childish curiosity and delight in the small wonders of the natural world."
– Publishers Weekly
"This volume celebrates the 'noncharismatic' mesofauna of tropical terrestrial ecosystems. In place of the images of birds and mammals that fill most collections of natural history photography, the author offers portraits of insects, arachnids, flatworms, and amphibians. With a few exceptions – such as island-dwelling coconut crabs and caecilians (subterranean legless amphibians) – the featured organisms would fit within a matchbox."
"Most of Earth's inhabitants, including insects, amphibians, and crustaceans, are smaller than a human finger. Naskrecki, an entomologist, brings these creatures into sharp focus with more than 400 full-color photographs. His book takes readers to various regions including the tropical forests, savannas, and deserts where these animals make their homes. Some of these critters have amazing camouflage and blend seamlessly into the background. Others stand out, thanks to displays of psychedelic-color combinations. With each photograph, Naskrecki provides background information about the creature, including its physical-features, defensive techniques, and mating habits. The author spotlights some of the odder small creatures, including scorpions that glow under ultraviolet light butterflies that drink 600 times their own weight in water at a sitting, and geckos that slip out of their skins to evade predators. The book ends with a description of the photographic process and the tricks involved in getting close-ups of tiny animals."
– Science News
"You may not feel more comfortable with spiders after reading this book, but you will be captivated by more than 400 full-color, stunning, jaw-dropping photographs, and charmed by Piotr Naskrecki's writing and passion for these small animals."
– Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness
"The Smaller Majority [...] presents many species never before photographed and all on high-resolution, six-color film. Naskrecki spent years in remote locations of Madagaskar, Costa Rica, Guinea, Australia and Bangkok pursuing millipedes, flatworms, tree frogs, spiders, ants and katydids [...] Naskrecki's macroscopic world view underscores what he calls the bigger issue – that size in nature serves as a great divider, rooted in the human desire to conquer and subjugate. Too often we dismiss the animal kingdom's smaller residents, not appreciating their role in the health of ecosystems. But as a photographer, Naskrecki reveals what seems to be a link between size and beauty, and how the 'insignificant' loom large among nature's most magnificent creations."
– Kurt Loft, The Tampa Tribune
"It is refreshing to have [a] new book about the 'smaller majority' by [a] naturalist whose enthusiasm for these creatures abounds throughout the text."
– Ghillean Prance, The Times Higher Education Supplement
"Imagine Gulliver just back from Lilliput. That is the entirely pleasurable feeling a reader will have after traveling through The Smaller Majority. Among the spineless wonders captured in macrophotos are giraffe weevils, tiger beetles, ant lions, shovel-snouted lizards and even a ghost-crab, dancing [...] The Smaller Majority, vividly written as well as shot by Mr. Naskrecki, an insect biologist, delivers itself of any number of astonishing facts [...] Small is beautiful – and powerful, too."
– Patti Hagan, The Wall Street Journal
"Naskrecki shares his lifelong fascination with the miniature of the natural world in The Smaller Majority, a pictorial homage to 'everything that is small and misunderstood.' The book is a full-color, guided tour of the tiny creatures that inhabit deserts, tropic forests and savannas across six continents. The Smaller Majority, whose title refers to the fact that more than 90 percent of known species are smaller than a human finger, brings you inside animals' habitats. The explanations that accompany Naskrecki's photographs offer a wealth of fascinating detail, with one exception: almost no mention of the animals' dimensions. The omission is intentional, as Naskrecki, ever sensitive to the way size can shape first impressions, feels it would distract from 'our appreciation of the animal's beauty.' His glorious photographs allay any concerns."
– Nora Krug, The Washington Post Book World
"Piotr Naskrecki is a master at portraying miniature worlds. He combines two skills that are rarely found in one person: as a conservation biologist, he can speak about his subjects with authority and conviction; as a photographer, he makes them come alive with astonishing close-ups. This book is a treasure house of images and information about a world most of us are barely aware of."
– Frans Lanting, photographer-in-residence, National Geographic Society, and author of Jungles and Eye to Eye
"The Smaller Majority represents the best kind of nature writing: by a scientific expert of the subject, beautifully illustrated, and with striking, original examples."
– Edward O. Wilson
- Prologue: How I Discovered the Smaller Majority
- Tropical Humid Forests
- Epilogue: New Life
- Photographing the Smaller Majority
- Species Index
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Piotr Naskrecki is Director of the Invertebrate Diversity Initiative of Conservation International and Research Associate with the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.