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What has eight legs and spins a good yarn?


What has eight legs and spins a good yarn?

A new book has been closely watched over by the subjects of its study - spiders. Like guardians, small spiders kept appearing on the parcel as Spiders of New Zealand and their Worldwide Kin went through its various stages of production.

This long-awaited book is the definitive guide for scientist and layperson alike, and is the result of two lifetimes of work by internationally respected arachnologists Ray and Lyn Forster. It is being launched today at the Otago Museum. In 1973 the Forsters wrote what was then the most comprehensive New Zealand spider book, Spiders of New Zealand: An Introduction. Since then, 800 more spider species have been named and described, and the Forsters have received hundreds of letters and enquiries about spiders from schools and individuals. Their new book will satisfy the demand for knowledge about this small creature that is regarded with both fear and fascination.

According to Dr Robert Raven, President of the International Society of Arachnologists, 'The spider world is hungry for this book! There is nothing available like it - everything else is either weighty scientific tomes or inaccurate introductions with glossy pictures. This is elegant and accurate.' He also says that the book provides invaluable source material for science teachers.

Designed for readers with an interest in natural history or wishing to extend their knowledge of spiders, Spiders of New Zealand and their Worldwide Kin looks at both native and introduced spiders, including two spider families known only in New Zealand. It covers the anatomy, physiology, behaviour and ecology of spiders. Some of the chapter titles are especially inviting: Hunting Spiders, Jumping Spiders, Free-Living Spiders, Seashore Spiders. There is also a chapter on harmful spiders and another very useful one on how to find and study spiders. A feature of the book is the superb illustrations of spider subjects - over 200 colour photographs, plus black and white photographs and drawings.

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Spiders colonised the Earth long before Gondwana began drifting apart and so this book is of international interest. In his foreword, Dr Norman I Platnick, of the American Museum of Natural History, says that 'The authors have pioneered in New Zealand discoveries that have later been found to apply to taxa in other parts of Australasia, in southern South America, and in southern Africa.' The book discusses these links with spiders worldwide.

Spiders of New Zealand includes notes on the naming of spiders, brief notes on early arachnologists, a select bibliography and an index. The authors spin an eminently readable and enjoyable tale which deserves a place on the shelves of school, public and personal libraries nationwide.

About the Authors The authors are eminent arachnologists Ray Forster (former director of the Otago Museum) and Lyn Forster (a former lecturer and tutor in zoology at the University of Otago). Together they share a lifetime interest in natural history and are authors of New Zealand Spiders: An Introduction (1973) and Small Land Animals of New Zealand (1970). Ray Forster has published many monographs on spiders and both authors have published numerous papers in journals worldwide.

Contents: 1 Structure and Behaviour 2 Life of a Spider 3 Spider Relatives 4 Trapdoor Spiders and Their Kin: Mygalomorphae 5 Living Fossils: Araneomorphae 6 Free-living Spiders 7 Crab Spiders 8 Hunting Spiders 9 Jumping Spiders 10 Six-eyed Spiders 11 Orbweb Spiders 12 Spaceweb Spiders 13 Midget Spiders 14 Seashore Spiders 15 Hackled-silk Spiders 16 Four Families 17 Harmful Spiders 18 How to Find and Study Spiders. Appendices: World List of Spider families, Notes on Early Arachnologists, Select Bibliography


Spiders of New Zealand and their Worldwide Kin Ray Forster & Lyn Forster Published by University of Otago Press in association with Otago Museum paperback, 270 pages, ISBN 1 877133 79 5, $79.95, Due November 1999


For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact Philippa Jamieson, Publicist, University of Otago Press, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand tel (03) 479 9094, fax (03) 479 8385, philippa.jamieson@stonebow.otago.ac.nz

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