Secret Weapons: Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions, and Other Many-Legged Creatures

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Secret Weapons: Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions, and Other Many-Legged Creatures Authors: , , Format: Paperback / softback First Published: Published By: Harvard University Press
string(3) "384"
Pages: 384 Illustrations and other contents: 350 color illustrations, 150 chemical formulas Language: English ISBN: 9780674024038 Categories: , ,

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.

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Secret Weapons will fascinate and occupy students and scientists indefinitely! Indeed anyone interested in how nature functions -- the many special interactions that make ecosystems work -- will thoroughly enjoy this fine volume. -- Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden This is by far the most beautiful and instructive book on behavioral chemical ecology I have seen. It is a book to give to your students, to your fellow scientists, and to your non-scientist friends who want to know why you study insects and other arthropods. -- Bert Holldobler, Arizona State University Secret Weapons is another triumph from the fabled Eisner laboratory -- a report on wonderful science backed up with spectacular pictures. It will introduce you to a fascinating world that few people know but everyone should know. -- Paul R. Ehrlich, Stanford University Secret Weapons is a field guide like no other. Well-written and splendidly illustrated, it is required reading for anyone interested in how insects avoid becoming someone's lunch. -- Ian Baldwin, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Germany A glorious collection! The fruit of a lifetime's delectable curiosity, Secret Weapons brings the fascinating ways of insects into focus with a unique, sparkling vision. By turns smart, funny, and insightful, this book is the perfect guide to a magical, if little-known, realm. -- Diane Ackerman A stunning example of the interdisciplinary nature of modern science. Secret Weapons weaves together natural history, organic chemistry, chemical ecology, and behavior to sketch out an important field as enticing to the genomicist as to the naturalist. -- Fotis C. Kafatos, Imperial College, London The arthropods--those multilegged, lowly denizens of the planet that most of us would probably like to forget--are masters at the art of defense. Outnumbering all of the other animals put together, the arthropods have survived through their mastery of a multitude of chemical weapons. In their fascinating new book, the authors, all of whom study the defensive strategies of arthropods (insects, scorpions, centipedes, etc.), provide an overview of their different methods of chemical defense...This unique guide to froth, venom, sprays, sticky coatings, and so forth will satisfy both the casual reader and the serious student and is a very worthy addition to any natural history collection. -- Nancy Bent * Booklist * The present volume is a beautifully illustrated guide to the defense systems of mainly North American arthropods, especially insects... The first of its kind, this primer will prove indispensable to a broad audience, from lay naturalists to students, teachers, specialists--even medical doctors. -- Annette Aiello * Library Journal * The text is technically precise but...the prose is bright and engaging...Eisner and his colleagues have skillfully captured the staggering diversity of exudates and delivery systems that arthropods possess--sights that have simply not been readily available even to the scientists who avidly peruse the chemical ecology literature. The book offers an invaluable source of illustrations for all audiences. -- May Berenbaum * Science * Secret Weapons is festooned with surprising information about the chemical ecology and defense mechanisms of a variety of terrestrial arthropods...Mythology may be replete with imaginative ideas but, as Thomas Eisner and his colleagues have shown in this rewarding book, truth is often much stranger than fiction. -- J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson * Times Literary Supplement * Secret Weapons is a delight. Although one could consult this book piecemeal, as a reference, I read it cover-to-cover simply because each successive chapter presented a new story that simultaneously enchanted and piqued my curiosity. The result was that I continued to read on to the next chapter in anticipation of yet another surprise and more marvelous pictures. I was never disappointed. With its instantly accessible and often humorous prose, the volume's target audience could well include naturalists, high school and college teachers, graduate and undergraduate students, and, as the authors suggest, "all those to whom nature never ceased to be a source of wonder." -- Fredric V. Venci * Quarterly Review of Biology * Arranged as a series of case studies of arthropods, together with a few noninsectans, this extraordinary book lays bare the almost incredible array of chemical stratagems these otherwise vulnerable creatures have adapted for their survival. If the case studies are astonishing, the numerous color photographs are even more so...It's impossible to read this beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated book without feeling a heightened sense of wonder. -- Eric Ormsby * New York Sun * The world of arthropod defenses is delightfully introduced in this new book coauthored by one of the experts in the field, Tom Eisner, and two colleagues, his wife, Maria Eisner, and Melody Siegler. This volume is a series of fascinating vignettes (69 in all) about the multitudinous defenses used by arthropods, ranging from a variety of defensive sprays and secretions, to barbed hairs, to stings and venoms, to cryptic coloration. While the concentration is certainly on chemical defenses, there are others included as well, such as the "spittle" of spittle bugs, the trash heaps that lacewing larvae pile on their backs, and the click of the click beetle. The authors write in an engaging and very readable style, making the sometimes complex anatomy and chemistry accessible to all those interested in behavior, ecology, chemistry, and evolution, whether from a professional or a personal perspective. The fascinating biology and chemistry of these animals provide examples that can be used to excite students about science at many levels...In sum, this was a thoroughly delightful introduction into the fascinating world of arthropod defenses...Secret Weapons brings together the fields of natural history, chemistry, behavior, ecology, and evolution and has appeal for professional scientists, students, and anyone fascinated with the natural world. This volume will be a wonderful resource for many years to come. -- M. Deane Bowers * Ecology * The secret weapons of a collection of 69 insects and their kin are revealed in this fascinating collection of essays. Each essay focuses on a single species and is beautifully illustrated with clear and revealing photographs of the creature's defenses. * Northeastern Naturalist * The book is a collection of fascinating stories, a useful field guide, a rich textbook and will be appreciated by scientists as well as naturalists. It provides an insight into a small pan of the hidden and fascinating world of small creatures that few people know, but which is worthy of study. -- O. Nedved * European Journal of Entomology * This book is eloquent. It concludes with a short section on "How to study insects and their kin" and a useful index. Throughout, it is eminently readable, and replete with ideas for future work. It is also very well produced, and should be of wide interest to entomologists and more general readers alike. -- T. R. New * Journal of Insect Conservation *

Author Biography

Thomas Eisner was J.G. Schurman Professor of Chemical Ecology at Cornell University. In 1994 he was awarded the National Medal of Science. His film Secret Weapons won the Grand Award at the New York Film Festival and was named Best Science Film by the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Maria Eisner is Research Associate of Biology at Cornell University. Melody Siegler is Associate Professor of Biology at Emory University.