In the crab spider, Misumena vatia, Douglass H. Morse and his colleagues found an ideal species on which to test basic questions associated with lifetime fitness. From the moment a female crab spider selects a flower on which to sit and wait for her prey, there unfolds a cascade of lifetime fitness variables that determine her evolutionary success. Did she choose a flower that attracts suitable prey? Will she encounter a competitor or predator? Will she survive long enough to breed, and will her offspring contribute to the gene pool? Ecologists had previously identified variables that shape populations, but lacked the experimental data needed to make comprehensive tests of individuals that made different foraging decisions. Morse found that Misumena is particularly well suited to both field study and laboratory experiments. Over the last 25 years, his simple yet elegant experiments have contributed to our understanding of lifetime fitness and helped to develop study techniques that can be applied to animals with other, more complex, life histories. Predator upon a Flower recounts these influential discoveries in a gracefully crafted narrative that moves ever outward from individuals to communities to ecosystems, and concludes by suggesting directions for future research in spider biology.
Predator upon a Flower is the result of half a lifetime’s devotion to the behavior of crab spiders—vicious predators that lurk on flowers and jump out at their prey… It will also become a classic of its kind, summarizing a distinctive approach to the biology of an intriguing organism.
I highly recommend this thoughtful work to any individual interested in the natural history, life history parameters, foraging behavior, and fitness of any organism. In addition to containing a wealth of information on the biology of a wide-ranging prairie spider commonly found in the flowerheads of milkweed, goldenrod, and prairie rose, this reasonably priced work may be regarded as a manual of research design and methods useful in undertaking nature studies anywhere. It will make a valuable addition to your library.
Morse has taken his highly respected body of work on the crab spider Misumena and woven it within the larger tapestry of ecology and its multifaceted sub-disciplines. The writing richly describes the natural histories of a wide diversity of life forms, indicating the complex position Misumena occupies in the trophic fabric of its ecosystem. This book will be valuable to many readers, from seasoned researchers to graduate students, and from young investigators to initiated amateurs. The conversational style keeps the reader interested and turning the pages. It is uncommon to find a work of this caliber that gives the impression to the reader that the author is conversing with them. This is a seminal piece of work.
There are very few spider species in the world that have been investigated at this level and about which it would be possible to make a similar coherent picture of its life history, as Morse has done here. As the first high-level monograph of a single spider species, Predator upon a Flower will be of immense interest to arachnologists; at the same time it will be valued by ecologists in general for its detailed analysis of lifetime fitness of an animal in the field. This is natural history in the best sense of the word, in which ecology, genetics, ethology, and physiology merge to create a coherent picture of a species’ life strategy. It is only when biologists learn to look at animals as integrated units that we will really learn how evolution has molded a species.
- 392 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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