This is the first instalment of the list series, 10 Great Books A-Z. Naturally, we are starting with A for Arachnids (Spiders).
1. Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating by Leslie Brunetta and Catherine L. Craig
Spiders, objects of eternal human fascination, are found in many places: on the ground, in the air, and even under water. Leslie Brunetta and Catherine Craig have teamed up to produce a substantive yet entertaining book for anyone who has ever wondered, as a spider rappelled out of reach on a line of silk, ‘How do they do that?’. The orb web, that iconic wheel-shaped web most of us associate with spiders, contains at least four different silk proteins, each performing a different function and all meshing together to create a fly-catching machine that has amazed and inspired humans through the ages. Brunetta and Craig tell the intriguing story of how spiders evolved over 400 million years to add new silks and new uses for silk to their survival ‘toolkit’ and, in the telling, take readers far beyond the orb. The authors describe the trials and triumphs of spiders as they use silk to negotiate an ever-changing environment, and they show how natural selection acts at the genetic level and as individuals struggle for survival.
2. Creep and Flutter: The Secret World of Insects and Spiders by Jim Arnosky
In his fourth stunning nonfiction picture book for Sterling Children’s Books, acclaimed naturalist and illustrator Jim Arnosky brings out the beauty–and the “wow!” and the “yuck!” factors–of hundreds of insects and spiders. Eight spectacular gatefolds show moths and mosquitoes, butterflies and beetles, spiders and silverfish life-size, up-close, and personal!
3. Spiders: Learning to Love Them by Lynne Kelly
When hordes of giant spiders invaded Lynne Kelly’s dreams, she decided it was time to overcome her arachnophobia by getting to know the creature intimately. This extensive introduction answers every basic question about spiders, including articles on web-building, the most venomous and dangerous species, and, of course, arachnid romance. An illustrated guide to identifying webs, a list of useful spider-watching equipment, observations sheets, and dozens of photographs of common species are also provided. Along the way, Lynne explains how she overcame her own arachnophobia, and provides tips and hints on how any arachnophobe can do the same.
4. Secret Weapons: Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions, and Other Many-Legged Creatures by Thomas Eisner, Maria Eisner and Melody Siegler
Mostly tiny, infinitely delicate, and short-lived, insects and their relatives–arthropods–nonetheless outnumber all their fellow creatures on earth. How lowly arthropods achieved this unlikely preeminence is a story deftly and colorfully told in this follow-up to the award-winning For Love of Insects. Part handbook, part field guide, part photo album, Secret Weapons chronicles the diverse and often astonishing defensive strategies that have allowed insects, spiders, scorpions, and other many-legged creatures not just to survive, but to thrive. In sixty-nine chapters, each brilliantly illustrated with photographs culled from Thomas Eisner’s legendary collection, we meet a largely North American cast of arthropods–as well as a few of their kin from Australia, Europe, and Asia–and observe at firsthand the nature and extent of the defenses that lie at the root of their evolutionary success. Here are the cockroaches and termites, the carpenter ants and honeybees, and all the miniature creatures in between, deploying their sprays and venom, froth and feces, camouflage and sticky coatings. And along with a marvelous bug’s-eye view of how these secret weapons actually work, here is a close-up look at the science behind them, from taxonomy to chemical formulas, as well as an appendix with instructions for studying chemical defenses at home. Whether dipped into here and there or read cover to cover, Secret Weapons will prove invaluable to hands-on researchers and amateur naturalists alike, and will captivate any reader for whom nature is a source of wonder.
5. Arachnids by Jan Beccaloni and Trudy Brannan
With around 11 distinctive lineages and over 38,000 species of spiders alone, arachnids are an amazingly diverse group of invertebrates—and with names like the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider, the Tailless Whip Spider, and the Harvestman, they can be both spectacular and captivating. Most books about arachnids focus on spiders, neglecting scorpions, ticks, mites, wind spiders, and other fascinating yet poorly understood groups. This adventurous volume summarizes all existing knowledge about each major type of arachnid, revealing their secrets through detailed species accounts, brilliant photographs, and a compelling cast of eight-legged characters. It examines the anatomy, habitat, behavior and distribution of each lineage, from the garden spider to the death stalker scorpion and even a species of mite that lives inside a monkey’s lungs. Drawing on the vast resources at London’s Natural History Museum, Arachnids spins a sensational tale, debunking common myths and delving deep into the lives of these bizarre and beautiful creatures.
6. Spider Behaviour: Flexibility and Versatility by Marie Elisabeth Herberstein
Spiders are often underestimated as suitable behavioral models because of the general belief that due to their small brains their behavior is innate and mostly invariable. Challenging this assumption, this fascinating book shows that rather than having a limited behavioral repertoire, spiders show surprising cognitive abilities, changing their behavior to suit their situational needs. The team of authors unravels the considerable intra-specific as well as intra-individual variability and plasticity in different behaviors ranging from foraging and web building to communication and courtship. An introductory chapter on spider biology, systematics and evolution provides the reader with the necessary background information to understand the discussed behaviors and helps to place them into an evolutionary context. Highlighting an under-explored area of behavior, this book will provide new ideas for behavioral researchers and students unfamiliar with spiders as well as a valuable resource for those already working in this intriguing field.
7. Spiders in Ecological Webs by David H. Wise
As experimental organisms, spiders offer ecologists a unique opportunity to examine the concept of the ecological community and the role that field experimentation can play in evaluating theories of population and community ecology. In this book, David Wise provides a balanced critique of field experiments designed to uncover details of spider ecology, with the dual aim of clarifying the ecology of these fascinating organisms and providing insight into the advantages and challenges of performing field experiments with a predator ubiquitous in terrestrial ecosystems.
8. The Life of the Spider by Jean-Henri Fabre
The Spider has a bad name – to most of us, she represents an odious, noxious animal, which every one hastens to crush under foot. Against this summary verdict the observer sets the beast’s industry, its talent as a weaver, its wiliness in the chase, its tragic nuptials and other characteristics of great interest. Yes, the Spider is well worth studying, apart from any scientific reasons; but she is said to be poisonous and that is her crime and the primary cause of the repugnance wherewith she inspires us. Poisonous, if by that we understand that the animal is armed with two fangs which cause the immediate death of the little victims which it catches; but there is a wide difference between killing a Midge and harming a man. However immediate in its effects upon the insect entangled in the fatal web, the Spider’s poison is not serious for us and causes less inconvenience than a Gnat-bite. That, at least, is what we can safely say as regards the great majority of the! Spiders of our regions.
9. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White and Garth Williams (Illustrator)
Charlotte’s Web is the story of a little girl named Fern who loved a little pig named Wilbur—and of Wilbur’s dear friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider who lived with Wilbur in the barn. With the help of Templeton, the rat who never did anything for anybody unless there was something in it for him, and by a wonderfully clever plan of her own, Charlotte saved the life of Wilbur, who by this time had grown up to quite a pig. How all this comes about is Mr. White’s story. It is a story of the magic of childhood on the farm. The thousands of children who loved Stuart Little, the heroic little city mouse, will be entranced with Charlotte the spider, Wilbur the pig, and Fern, the little girl who understood their language.
10. Spinning Spiders by Ruth Berman
Describes the physical characteristics and behavior of spiders and how they use their silk for weaving webs and other purposes.