Spineless Wonders

Overview

We humans have a word for the feeling, whether actual or imagined, that creepy invertebrates are crawling over our skin. That word is formication, and the implied sense of horror and fascination, contends Richard Conniff, is something many of us actually crave. His Spineless Wonders presents an "unabashed wallow in the joy of formication." Spineless Wonders is an engaging, sophisticated, and humorous mix of natural history and human lore. Through his journalistic assignments, Richard Conniff has been in contact ...
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Overview

We humans have a word for the feeling, whether actual or imagined, that creepy invertebrates are crawling over our skin. That word is formication, and the implied sense of horror and fascination, contends Richard Conniff, is something many of us actually crave. His Spineless Wonders presents an "unabashed wallow in the joy of formication." Spineless Wonders is an engaging, sophisticated, and humorous mix of natural history and human lore. Through his journalistic assignments, Richard Conniff has been in contact with invertebrates for more than twenty years - tarantulas in the upper Amazon region, dragonflies in Arizona, squid in Florida, and flies on the rim of his beer glass. Discoveries about the extraordinary habits and idiosyncrasies of the moth, the leech, the ant, and the slime eel are opening new frontiers in the exploration of our natural universe. Spineless Wonders takes us directly to these wild and wonderful outposts to observe the hazards of being around invertebrates, the bizarre adaptions that enable them to survive in the world, and also the astonishing work they do - work that enables us to survive.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Invertebrates are literally spineless and much maligned. But we vetebrates are figuratively spineless, at least when it comes to the creepy, slimy, hairy horror evoked by that which "represents more than 99.5 percent of all animal species." Coniff (writer and producer of nature programs for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel) humbles us in his wonderfully weird, icky book, for he makes clear that without the fly to pollinate and the worm to till the earth, we would vanish. There is much to learn here: that leeches are being farmed and used medicinally (again); that in Texas, fire ants "frequently get to highway accident victims before the ambulance"; that the squid's mantle, when served up as calamari, is virtually fat free (Coniff even includes a recipe); that dragonflies have been clocked at 35 mph and that 440 fleas can be found on a single cat; that some moths smell so bad spiders set them free if caught in their webs. People are terrified of snakes and spiders, but the mosquito, Conniff tells us, is "the most dangerous animal on earth," spreading malaria, yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis, diseases that often change the course of human history. With humor, Conniff follows various eccentric characters (madly in love with their subjects, be they squid or slime eels) down tarantula's burrows and into dusty collection drawers. He points out that we have researched many invertebrates relentlessly in our effort to kill them off, only to learn in minutest detail what mirculous systems make life live. Readers may feel something crawling up their leg as they read this enlightening and entertaining book. Illustrations by Sally Bensusen. Rights, except electronic: The Spieler Agency. (Nov.)
Library Journal
More than 99 percent of all living animals, including some of the most beautiful, bizarre, and fascinating, are invertebrates. Science writer Conniff, who claims "the natural world was absent from [his] upbringing," has developed a deep fondness for these creatures. He brings together here several of his essays from popular magazines on some of the more unlovely invertebrates around us, revealing their lives and habits. The pieces are equally about the scientists, themselves often bizarre and fascinating, who study invertebrates. Conniff's writing is lively, personal, and clear. Readers will enjoy that fine feeling of formication (the sense that something is crawling on your skin) as they learn about house flies, tarantulas, and earthworms. Recommended for popular and general collections.Bruce D. Neville, Univ. of New Mexico Lib., Albuquerque
School Library Journal
YAAn engrossing, and occasionally gross, peek at invertebrate species. Conniff introduces readers to flies, leeches, fire ants, giant squid, dragonflies, tarantulas, fleas, beetles, worms, mosquitoes, and moths. His unabashed enthusiasm for the joys of formication"the feeling that ants or other creeping things are crawling over one's flesh"is sure to draw YAs into the often-bizarre world of invertebrates and the humans who actually delight in their study. Each chapter delivers a plethora of strange facts and figures. In 1912 in Toronto a girl won a $50 first prize for killing 543,360 flies that weighed a total of 212.25 pounds. Invertebrate researchers actually take note of such strange facts as that the fly defecates every four and a half minutes and that some leeches fertilize their mates by depositing spermalophores that "bore through the skin into the body cavity and thence to the ovaries." Conniff shows the world of invertebrates to be as compelling and strange as a science-fiction odyssey. This winning combination of humor, historical facts, and scientific study includes 16 line drawings, and bibliographies for each chapter.Marianne Tait Pridemore, San Jose Public Library, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805055313
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/1997
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.49 (w) x 8.27 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Joy of Formication 1
Why Did God Make Flies? 9
Little Suckers 21
Empire of the Fire Ant 38
The Big Calamari 58
Lions of the Pond 74
Spider Love 91
Leapers 109
Beetlemania 124
Grunting for Wigglers 138
A Small Point of Interest 152
Ghosts on Wings 170
Slime 185
Bibliography 200
Index 207
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