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Academic & Professional Books  Insects & other Invertebrates  Invertebrates: General

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

By: Thomas Eisner(Author), Maria Eisner(Author), Melody Siegler(Author)
372 pages, 370 colour & b/w photos and b/w illustrations
Publisher: Belknap Press
Great book on the defence systems of invertebrates, with fabulous photographs
Secret Weapons
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  • Secret Weapons ISBN: 9780674024038 Paperback May 2007 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
  • Secret Weapons ISBN: 9780674018822 Hardback Dec 2005 Out of Print #154596
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About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles Recommended titles

About this book

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 colourfully 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 69 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 defences 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 faeces, camouflage and sticky coatings. And along with a marvellous 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 defences 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.


Class Arachnida
      Order Uropygi
            Family Theliphonidae
                  1. Mastigoproctus giganteus (The Vinegaroon)
      Order Opiliones
            Family Cosmetidae
                  2. Vonones sayi (A Harvestman)
            Family Sclerosomatidae
                  3. Leiobunum nigripalpi (A Daddylonglegs)
      Order Scorpiones
            Family Vejovidae
                  4. Vejovis spinigerus (The Striped-tail Scorpion)
      Order Araneida
            Family Oxyopidae
                  5. Peucetia viridans (The Green Lynx Spider)
Class Chilopoda
      Order Scolopendrida
            Family Scolopendridae
                  6. Scolopendra heros (The Giant Sonoran Centipede)
      Order Geophilida
            Family Oryidae
                  7. Orphnaeus brasilianus (A Geophilid Centipede)
Class Diplopoda
      Order Spirobolida
            Family Floridobolidae
                  8. Floridobolus penneri (The Florida Scrub Millipede)
      Order Polydesmida
            Family Polydesmidae
                  9. Apheloria kleinpeteri (A Polydesmid Millipede)
      Order Polyzoniida
            Family Polyzoniidae
                  10. Polyzonium rosalbum (A Polyzoniid Millipede)
      Order Glomerida
            Family Glomeridae
                  11. Glomeris marginata (A Pill Millipede)
      Order Polyxenida
            Family Polyxenidae
                  12. Polyxenus fasciculatus (A Bristle Millipede)
Class Insecta
      Order Dyctioptera
            Family Blattidae
                  13. Eurycotis floridana (The Florida Woods Cockroach)
                  14. Periplaneta australasiae (The Australian Cockroach)
                  15. Deropeltis wahlbergi (A Blattid Cockroach)
            Family Blaberidae
                  16. Diploptera punctata (The Pacific Beetle Cockroach)
      Order Dermaptera
            Family Forficulidae
                  17. Doru taeniatum (An Earwig)
      Order Isoptera
            Family Termitidae
                  18. Nasutitermes exitiosus (A Termite)
      Order Phasmatodea
            Family Diapheromeridae
                  19. Oreophoetes peruana (A Walking-Stick)
            Family Pseudophasmatidae
                  20. Anisomorpha buprestoides (The Two-Striped Walking-Stick)
      Order Orthoptera
            Family Romaleidae
                  21. Romalea guttata (The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper)
      Order Hemiptera
            Family Coreidae
                  22. Chelinidea vittiger (A Leaf-Footed Bug)
            Family Reduviidae
                  23. Apiomerus flaviventris (A Reduviid Bug)
            Family Belostomatidae
                  24. Abedus herberti (A Giant Water Bug)
            Family Aphididae
                  25. Aphis nerii (The Oleander Aphid)
                  26. Prociphilus tessellatus (The Woolly Alder Aphid)
            Family Flatidae
                  27. Ormenaria rufifascia (A Flatid Planthopper)
            Family Cercopidae
                  28. Prosapia bicincta (The Two-Lined Spittlebug)
            Family Dactylopiidae
                  29. Dactylopius confusus (A Cochineal Bug)
            Family Aleyrodidae
                  30. Metaleurodicus griseus (A Whitefly)
      Order Neuroptera
            Family Chrysopidae
                  31. Ceraeochrysa cubana (A Green Lacewing)
                  32. Ceraeochrysa smithi (A Green Lacewing)
                  33. Chrysopa slossonae (A Green Lacewing)
      Order Coleoptera
            Family Carabidae
                  34. Galerita lecontei (A Ground Beetle)
                  35. Brachinus (Many Species) (Bombardier Beetles)
            Family Gyrinidae
                  36. Dineutus hornii (A Whirligig Beetle)
            Family Dytiscidae
                  37. Thermonectus marmoratus (A Predaceous Diving Beetle)
            Family Silphidae
                  38. Necrodes surinamensis (The Red-Lined Carrion Beetle)
            Family Staphylinidae
                  39. Creophilus maxillosus (The Hairy Rove Beetle)
            Family Cantharidae
                  40. Chauliognathus lecontei (A Soldier Beetle)
            Family Lampyridae
                  41. Photinus ignitus and Photuris versicolor (Fireflies)
            Family Lycidae
                  42. Calopteron reticulatum (The Banded Net-Winged Beetle)
            Family Elateridae
                  43. Alaus myops (The Eyed Elater)
            Family Buprestidae
                  44. Acmaeodera pulchella (The Flat-Headed Bald Cypress Sapwood Borer)
            Family Coccinellidae
                  45. Cycloneda sanguinea (A Ladybird Beetle)
                  46. Epilachna varivestis (The Mexican Bean Beetle)
            Family Meloidae
                  47. Epicauta (An Unidentified Species) (A Blister Beetle)
            Family Pyrochroidae
                  48. Neopyrochroa flabellata (A Fire-Colored Beetle)
            Family Tenebrionidae
                  49. Adelium percatum (A Darkling Beetle)
                  50. Bolitotherus cornutus (The Forked Fungus Beetle)
                  51. Eleodes longicollis (A Darkling Beetle)
            Family Scarabaeidae
                  52. Trichiotinus rufobrunneus (A Scarab Beetle)
            Family Chrysomelidae
                  53. Hemisphaerota cyanea (A Tortoise Beetle)
                  54. Gratiana pallidula (A Tortoise Beetle)
                  55. Plagiodera versicolora (The Imported Willow-Leaf Beetle)
      Order Lepidoptera
            Family Dalceridae
                  56. Dalcerides ingenita (A Dalcerid Moth)
            Family Noctuidae
                  57. Litoprosopus futilis (The Palmetto Borer Moth)
            Family Notodontidae
                  58. Schizura unicornis (The Unicorn Caterpillar Moth)
            Family Thyrididae
                  59. Calindoea trifascialis (A Thyridid Moth)
            Family Yponomeutidae
                  60. Ypsolopha dentella (The European Honeysuckle Leaf Roller)
            Family Geometridae
                  61. Nemoria outina (A Geometrid Moth)
            Family Arctiidae
                  62. Utetheisa ornatrix (The Rattlebox Moth)
            Family Saturniidae
                  63. Automeris io (The Io Moth)
            Family Papilionidae
                  64. Eurytides marcellus (The Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly)
            Family Pieridae
                  65. Pieris rapae (The Cabbage Butterfly)
            Family Nymphalidae
                  66. Danaus plexippus (The Monarch Butterfly)
      Order Hymenoptera
            Family Pergidae
                  67. Perga affinis (A Pergine Sawfly)
            Family Formicidae
                  68. Camponotus floridanus (A Carpenter Ant)
            Family Apidae
                  69. Apis mellifera (The Honey Bee)

How to Study Insects and Their Kin
Illustration Credits

Customer Reviews


Thomas Eisner is J. G. Schurman Professor of Chemical Ecology at Cornell University. In 1994 he was awarded the National Medal of Science, and in 2005 he received the Rockefeller University Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science. Maria Eisner is a Research Associate of Biology at Cornell University. Melody Siegler is an Associate Professor of Biology at Emory University.

By: Thomas Eisner(Author), Maria Eisner(Author), Melody Siegler(Author)
372 pages, 370 colour & b/w photos and b/w illustrations
Publisher: Belknap Press
Great book on the defence systems of invertebrates, with fabulous photographs
Media reviews

"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, The Times Literary Supplement

"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

"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, The 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 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 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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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 Hölldobler, Arizona State University

"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

"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

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