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Book Beat: April 2002

Seed Dispersal and Frugivory: Ecology, Evolution and Conservation

Seed Dispersal and Frugivory: Ecology, Evolution and Conservationedited by Douglas Levey, Wesley R. Silva, Department of Zoology, and Mauro Galetti
(CABI Publishing, 2002)
Available through Amazon

Most people have probably dabbled in some occasional frugivory, whether they are aware of it or not.

"Frugivory is simply the consumption of fruit," Zoology Professor Doug Levey says. "In evolutionary terms, it is extremely important, because it is one of the primary mechanisms by which plants get their seeds dispersed."

Doug LeveyLevey says that in some tropical forests, as many as 80% of plant species produce fruits that are eaten by birds and mammals. "These animals ingest seeds and later defecate them away from the parent plant, where the seeds germinate and grow. Many studies have shown that such dispersal is necessary because mortality of seeds and seedlings near parent trees is incredibly high."

Levey's new book arose out of the Third International Symposium-Workshop on Frugivores and Seed Dispersal, which was held August 2000 in Rio Quente, Brazil and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). "The NSF typically wants some type of publication from a large meeting of this type, so I promised that I'd help put one together. All invited participants were asked to contribute a chapter to the book, and all agreed," Levey says, adding that because his co-editors speak Portuguese, he was primarily responsible for reviewing and editing the manuscripts. He is quick to point out, though, that his co-editors deserve equal credit because they were the driving force behind organizing the conference.

Levey hopes the book will give academics, managers and conservation biologists an appreciation for the complex tapestry woven by the interactions between plants and animals. "In the past, workers in this field have tended to overlook obvious but important ecological and evolutionary twists. In doing so, I fear the field has gotten a bit stuck," Levey says. "The goal of both the book and the conference is to awaken people to new ways of looking at frugivory and seed dispersal and to chart a course for new research."

—Patrick Hughes

Roman Religion in Valerius Maximus

Roman Religion in Valerius Maximusby Hans-Friedrich Mueller, Department of Classics
(Routledge, 2002)
Available through Amazon

In his book Roman Religion in Valerius Maximus, Assistant Professor of Classics Hans-Friedrich Mueller illustrates what anecdote collector Valerius Maximus can tell the modern reader about the religion, rhetoric and historiography of ancient Rome, attacking several orthodoxies along the way. Mueller argues that Roman religion could be deeply emotional, that it was possible for Roman citizens to believe passionately in the divinity of their emperor and that Rome's gods and religious rituals had an important role in fostering conventional morality. Mueller also uses Maximus' work to reveal the prevalent attitudes and beliefs of the ruling class that caused the persecution of early Christians.

Maximus compiled his Memorable Doings and Sayings during the reign of Tiberius, from 1437 AD. Originally intended to be instructional, the handbook's collection of deeds and sayings (arranged according to different virtues, vices, religious practices and customs) is considered an important source for studying the opinions of Romans in the early empire.

Mueller came to UF in the fall of 2001. He has had numerous articles and reviews published and has contributed to works such as the Dictionary of the Ancient World and the Dictionary of Literary Biography: Roman Authors. Roman Religion in Valerius Maximus is his first book.

Mueller received his MA from UF in 1989 and his PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1994.

—Patrick Hughes

Jane Dominguez: Doug Levey

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