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


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 ...

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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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Editorial Reviews

Peter Raven
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.
Bert Holldobler
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.
Paul R. Ehrlich
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.
Ian Baldwin
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.
Diane Ackerman
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.
Fotis C. Kafatos
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.
Booklist - Nancy Bent
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.
Science - May Berenbaum
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.
Times Literary Supplement - J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson
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.
Quarterly Review of Biology - Fredric V. Venci
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."
New York Sun - Eric Ormsby
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.
Ecology - M. Deane Bowers
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.
Northeastern Naturalist
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.
European Journal of Entomology - O. Nedved
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.
Journal of Insect Conservation - T. R. New
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.
Library Journal
Close on the heels of Eisner's (chemical ecology, Cornell Univ.) jewel of a book, For Love of Insects, an account of his own extraordinary research, the present volume is a beautifully illustrated guide to the defense systems of mainly North American arthropods, especially insects. Written with Maria Eisner (biology, Cornell Univ.) and Melody V.S. Siegler (biology, Emory Univ.), it draws on examples not only from Eisner's own investigations but also from various works of entomological literature. Each of the 69 chapters is devoted to an arthropod or arthropod group and provides a clear, concise (on average four to five pages long) introduction to its general features and special characteristics. Included are classification; scientific name; common name; description of defense system, whether behavioral, morphological, or chemical; defensive chemical formula(e) when applicable; and key references. An epilog speculating on future directions, a final chapter on how to study insects, a general index, and a chemical index round out this remarkable volume. 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, Smithsonian Tropical Research Inst., Panama Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674024038
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

1 Mastigoproctus giganteus (the vinegaroon) 4
2 Vonones sayi (a harvestman) 7
3 Leiobunum nigripalpi (a daddylonglegs) 11
4 Vejovis spinigerus (the striped tail scorpion) 15
5 Peucetia viridans (the green lynx spider) 22
6 Scolopendra heroes (the giant Sonoran centipede) 29
7 Orphnaeus brasilianus (a geophilid centipede) 33
8 Floridobolus penneri (the Florida scrub millipede) 37
9 Apheloria kleinpeteri (a polydesmid millipede) 43
10 Polyzonium rosalbum (a polyzoniid millipede) 48
11 Glomeris marginata (a pill millipede) 51
12 Polyxenus fasciculatus (a bristle millipede) 55
13 Eurycotis floridana (the Florida woods cockroach) 59
14 Periplaneta australasiae (the Australian cockroach) 65
15 Deropeltis wahlbergi (a blattid cockroach) 69
16 Diploptera punctata (the Pacific beetle cockroach) 73
17 Doru taeniatum (an earwig) 77
18 Nasutitermes exitiosus (a termite) 82
19 Oreophoetes peruana (a walkingstick) 89
20 Anisomorpha buprestoides (the two-stirped walkingstick) 93
21 Romalea guttata (the eastern lubber grasshopper) 97
22 Chelinidea vittiger (a leaf-footed bug) 102
23 Apiomerus flaviventris (a reduviid bug) 108
24 Abedus herberti (a giant water bug) 113
25 Aphis nerii (the oleander aphid) 117
26 Prociphilus tessellatus (the woolly alder aphid) 121
27 Ormenaria rufifascia (a flatid planthopper) 125
28 Prosapia bicincta (the two-lined spittlebug) 129
29 Dactylopius confusus (a cochineal bug) 132
30 Metaleurodicus griseus (a whitefly) 137
31 Ceraeochrysa cubana (a green lacewing) 141
32 Ceraeochrysa smithi (a green lacewing) 145
33 Chrysopa slossonae (a green lacewing) 148
34 Galerita lecontei (a ground beetle) 151
35 Brachinus (many species) (bombardier beetles) 157
36 Dineutus hornii (a whirligig beetle) 163
37 Thermonectus marmoratus (a predaceous diving beetle) 168
38 Necrodes surinamensis (the red-lined carrion beetle) 173
39 Creophilus maxillosus (the hairy rove beetle) 178
40 Chauliognathus lecontei (a soldier beetle) 185
41 Photinus ignitus and Photuris versicolor (fireflies) 189
42 Clopteron reticulatum (the banded net-winged beetle) 194
43 Alaus myops (the eyed elater) 199
44 Acmaeodera pulchella (the flat-headed baldcypress sapwood borer) 203
45 Cycloneda sanguinea (a ladybird beetle) 206
46 Epilachna varivestis (the Mexican bean beetle) 211
47 Epicauta (an unidentified species) 220
48 Neopyrochroa flabellata (a fire-colored beetle) 224
49 Adelium percatum (a darkling beetle) 228
50 Bolitotherus cornutus (the forked fungus beetle) 232
51 Eleodes longicollis (a darkling beetle) 236
52 Trichiotinus rufobrunneus (a scarab beetle) 241
53 Hemisphaerota cyanea (a tortoise beetle) 244
54 Gratiana pallidula (a tortoise beetle) 250
55 Plagiodera versicolora (the imported willow leaf beetle) 255
56 Dalcerides ingenita (a dalcerid moth) 261
57 Litoprosopus futilis (the palmetto borer moth) 264
58 Schizura unicornis (the unicorn caterpillar moth) 269
59 Calindoea trifascialis (a thyridid moth) 273
60 Ypsolopha dentella (the European honeysuckle leaf roller) 277
61 Nemoria outina (a geometrid moth) 282
62 Utetheisa ornatrix (the rattlebox moth) 286
63 Automeris io (the io moth) 292
64 Eurytides marcellus (the zebra swallowtail butterfly) 297
65 Pieris rapae (the cabbage butterfly) 304
66 Danaus plexippus (the monarch butterfly) 309
67 Perga affinis (a pergine sawfly) 314
68 Camponotus floridanus (a carpenter ant) 321
69 Apis mellifera (the honey bee) 331
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