This book links the molecular evolution of silk proteins to the evolution and behavioral ecology of web-spinning spiders and other arthropods. Craig's book draws together studies from biochemistry through molecular genetics, cellular physiology, ecology, and behavior to present an integrated understanding of an interesting biological system at the molecular and organizational levels.
The four chapters on silk form the core of the book. The first outlines the history of silk evolution, and the second explores the genetic code behind the proteins that make up some silks. Next comes an investigation of how the mechanical properties of bulk silk depend on the protein skeleton of the filament. And it is all wrapped up by an explanation of the economics of silk synthesis and its effect on the evolution of the wide range of silk types that some
spiders can produce. There is also a chapter on the absence of higher social development in spiders, which, in a twist, is linked to development and related silk-production costs. The brief final
chapter summarizes the author's view on the forces that drive silk evolution.
I can highly recommend the book as a comprehensive and up-to-date account of silk... The writing throughout is clear and well presented, and even though there is no glossary, an effort has been made to avoid jargon. There is a good index and the references are, on the whole, comprehensive...Overall, the book provides excellent value for money on a number of levels.
1: Breaking down silk proteins and their evolutionary pathways
2: The comparative architecture of silks, fibrous proteins and their encoding genes in insects and spiders
3: The mechanical functions of silk and their correlated structural properties
4: Insect spatial vision is potential selective factor on the evolution of silk achromatic properties and web architecture
5: Insect color vision is a potential selective factor on the evolution of silk chromatic properties and web design
6: Insect learning capacity is a potential selective factor in the evolution of silk color and the decorative silk patterns spun by spiders
7: Inter-gland competition for amino acids and the ATP costs of silk synthesis
8: One-dimensional developmental system and life-long silk synthesis may preclude the evolution of high eusociality in spiders
9: Conclusions and looking forward