Spider Silk Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating Leslie Brunetta, Catherine L. Craig

Publication date:
14 Mar 2012
Yale University Press
248 pages: 235 x 156mm
12 color illus. in 8 pp. insert
Sales territories:

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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.

Leslie Brunetta is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, Technology Review, and the Sewanee Review; on NPR; and elsewhere. Catherine L. Craig is an internationally recognized evolutionary biologist, arachnologist, and authority on silk.

"This is a fascinating and readable account of one of the great, overlooked mysteries of life.|—Simon Barnes, The Times

"The book is full of amusing facts and observations. Definitely for the general reader with a keen interest in natural history."—Tibor Fischer, Sunday Telegraph

"Supremely absorbing book."—Ben Hoare, BBC Wildlife Magazine

"The most wonderful and singular thing about spiders is, of course, spider silk, the material they spin into webs, and arachnologist Catherine Craig, together with journalist Leslie Brunett, has produced an introduction to the subject that, though academic, is nevertheless accessible to the layman. Find out how and why spiders spin different types of webs and just what is so extraordinary about their silk." Good Book Guide