My relationship with spiders has been one of fascination and fear. As a child, I collected spiders, fed spiders and lured spiders out of their hides. But it was always like playing with fire – trepidation was close by. I have watched my friend and colleague, Robert Whyte, take his interest in spiders from a position of determining the health of a bushland area, to one of deep understanding and appreciation, combined with an insatiable drive to inspire others. Culminating in this stunning new book, Robert’s passion for spiders has helped me, and many others, expand our appreciation and reduce our fear of these animals.
The photographs in this book are striking and reflect the fortunate era we live in whereby travel, communication and high-end photography are easily accessible. All 1300 photographs are of living animals, many staring down the lens, captivating the reader.
This book is the most comprehensive account of Australian spiders. Its friendly layout with colour coding for major spider families helps organise this book into manageable sections. Apart from introductory pages covering topics such as spinnerets, webs and burrows, the text is limited to concise photograph captions. As such, it is designed to be flicked through to assist identification.
This book sets a new standard for invertebrate field guides – lots of live animal photos enabling readers to have a crack at identification themselves. It paves the way for anyone to get involved with invertebrate taxonomy and demonstrates that we all can meaningfully contribute to scientific knowledge. Given that only one-quarter of all Australian spiders have been identified, and that 90% of Australian spiders are found nowhere else in the world, I believe that this book will help create more amateur arachnologists.
Review by Deborah Metters