So many insects - so much biochemistry.

Biosynthesis in insects
E David Morgan
Cambridge, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry 2004 | Pp 199 | ?34.95 (SB) | ISBN 08544046917
Reviewed by Lawrence Dinan

Do biology students want to know about chemistry? Do chemists want to learn about the vast diversity of insects? Does either want to study biosynthetic pathways? Most students will answer ’no’ emphatically to these questions, even though teachers recognise that they need to know about these areas.

So, what are the prospects for a book aimed at postgraduate students that focuses on biosynthetic pathways and their intermediates in insects and in the plants on which they live? Low? On the contrary. David Morgan has succeeded in preparing a short text which synthesises information from diverse sources and disciplines into a succinct summary and provides an excellent starting point for anybody undertaking research or teaching in this area.

The subject matter still requires, of course, much concentration and broad thinking, but the author has structured the book well, written in a clear style, brought out the main concepts and demonstrated not only what is known, but also how much we still need to learn about biochemistry in the most abundant class of animals on this earth (estimated at 1- 10 million species) and which is so ecologically and economically important.

The book is extensively illustrated both in terms of chemical structures and with photographs and line drawings of insects. Referencing has been kept to a minimum to facilitate student reading. Rather, suggested further reading focuses on academic monographs, so that this book leads the reader gently into the more intense literature. Several problem questions are provided at the end of each chapter (with the answers at the end of the book), so the reader can assess whether the concepts have been understood and can be applied to other examples.

Although the target readership is perhaps not numerous, students starting in this multidisciplinary area will appreciate Morgan’s straightforward summary of very complex material.