In 2002, scientists from the American Museum of
Natural History in New York ventured out
into the city's Central Park to poke around its rich and
complex layer of leaf litter. They made a big,
yet tiny, discovery.
Hidden under the detritus — piles of broken
twigs, soil, fungi, decomposing plants and tree
leaves — lived what many believe is the smallest
centipede in the world, a brand new species that has
only been found in this one park.
The insect, dubbed Hoffman's dwarf centipede, is
brilliantly golden in color, is less than an inch
long and has 41 pairs of legs. Each day, thousands of park
goers unknowingly walk right past or over
these unique, tiny creatures.
The Big Apple — a land of skyscrapers and
concrete — holds many such natural wonders, and
Leslie Day would like to be your guide.
Day, a New York City naturalist, reveals this amazing
urban environment in her new book, Field
Guide to the Natural World of New York City, published
this month by the Johns Hopkins University
The foreword was written by New York City Mayor
Michael Bloomberg, who will host the book
launch on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at a special event at Gracie
Mansion, the mayor's official residence. The
event also will be attended by Adrian Benepe, New York City
parks commissioner, and Johns Hopkins
President William R. Brody.
Day says that she wanted to give New York's wildlife
"There are so many different types of plants, trees
and mammals in the city, but I wasn't aware
of any other field guide," says Day, whose work clocks in
at 352 pages.
She says that the discovery of Hoffman's dwarf
centipede is just one example of how important
these types of ecosystems are.
"It's common for scientists to find new species in
places such as tropical rain forests, but the
centipede discovery is just one reminder that the
conservation of urban parks is important as well,"
In fact, New York just might be the most biologically
diverse city in temperate America. The
five boroughs sit atop one of the most naturally rich sites
in North America, directly under the
Atlantic migratory flyway, at the mouth of a 300-mile-long
river and on three islands — Manhattan,
Staten and Long — with miles of coastline.
The book combines original artwork by Mark A.
Klingler, a scientific illustrator at the Carnegie
Museum of Natural History, with a variety of photographs
and maps. It's touted as a complete guide
for the urban naturalist, with tips on identifying the
city's flora and fauna, and even maps showing the
nearest subway stop. Readers will learn where to go to spot
such animals as brown bats, red foxes and
peregrine falcons — a once-endangered bird species
that now thrives in New York, nesting in its
skyscrapers and tall bridges.
The first part of the book talks about the natural and
human history of the city. The second
part is devoted to the creatures both big and small that
call New York home, the geology of the area
and its various trail systems.
Day is an environmental and life sciences educator at
the Elisabeth Morrow School and an
adjunct faculty member at Bank Street College of Education.
She developed the City Naturalists
Summer Institute with the Central Park Conservancy and has
a doctorate in science education from
Teachers College, Columbia University. She and her husband
live on a houseboat on the Hudson River in
Manhattan. Day grew up in the city and spent a large
portion of her childhood playing in Central Park.
Klingler's artwork has appeared internationally in
major scientific journals and popular
magazines, as well as in museums and at art forums across
the country. He trained at Carnegie Mellon
University and Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts.
Field Guide to the Natural World of New York
City is one of a growing line of JHU Press books
devoted to America's largest city. Others include Taxi!
A Social History of the New York City
Cabdriver, New York Subways: An Illustrated History of New
York City's Transit Cars and Grand
Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture
in New York City.
The book, priced at $24.95 for the paperback edition
and $55 for the hardcover, will be
available at all major bookstores and through the JHU Press