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SCIENCE FILE

Bugged by What's on the Windshield

May 29, 1997|THOMAS H. MAUGH II | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of the more unusual animal guidebooks ever published was Roger M. Knutson's 1992 epic "Flattened Fauna," an illustrated lesson on identifying the species of small birds and mammals flattened by cars and trucks on the interstate.

Now, in the same tradition, comes "That Gunk on Your Car," by Mark E. Hostetler, an illuminating source of information for the harried driver who asks, "What is this stuff on the windshield, anyway?"

Hostetler, a graduate student in zoology at the University of Florida, was initially struck by the large number of bugs that decorated his car after trips on Florida's well-populated byways.

Curious, he began hanging around Greyhound Bus stations, peeling bugs off the flat fronts of the buses--which proved to be excellent collecting devices--and statistically analyzing the frequency with which each winged species met its demise.

Eventually, he mounted a net on the roof of his '84 Honda to collect the critters after they bounced off the windshield. A 12,000-mile trip around the country yielded most of the raw material for the book. Each time an unusual splat appeared on his windshield, Hostetler stopped to check the net and see what caused it. Needless to say, it was not a fast trip.

Hostetler presents side-by-side pictures of the most common insects hit by cars and the resulting unique splats that scarred his windshield. For the more curious, he also suggests some activities that can be conducted with the insects--while they are still alive, of course.

The book, though perhaps not as funny as "Flattened Fauna," might help make a long car trip a little more interesting.

For more information, contact Hostetler's Web site: http://nersp.nerdc.ufl.edu/~arm/people/hos.html or e-mail him at hos@zoo.ufl.edu.

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