Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating by Leslie Brunetta and Catherine L. Craig has been shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
The prize is open to authors of science books written for a non-specialist audience. The winner is selected by a judging panel, who release a longlist of 12 books and a shortlist of 6 books before the winner is announced in October. The authors of the shortlisted books each receive £1,000 and the winner receives £10,000.
Discussing Spider Silk the judges said: “This book uses an unlikely subject to draw out many of the major principles of biology, drawing the reader into the surprisingly fascinating world of the spider.”
Spider Silk is a substantive yet entertaining book for anyone who has ever wondered, as a spider rappelled out of reach on a line of silk, ‘How do they do that?’ The orb web, that iconic wheel-shaped web most of us associate with spiders, contains at least four different silk proteins, each performing a different function and all meshing together to create a fly-catching machine that has amazed and inspired humans through the ages. In their book Brunetta and Craig tell the intriguing story of how spiders evolved over 400 million years to add new silks and new uses for silk to their survival ‘toolkit’ and, in the telling, take readers far beyond the orb. The authors describe the trials and triumphs of spiders as they use silk to negotiate an ever-changing environment, and they show how natural selection acts at the genetic level and as individuals struggle for survival.
The ‘Science Books Prize’ was originally established in 1988 with the aim of encouraging the writing, publishing and reading of good and accessible popular science books. From 1990-2000 it was known as the ‘Rhône-Poulenc Prize for Science Books’, from 2001-2006 as the ‘Aventis Prize for Science Books’ and from 2007-2010 as the ‘Royal Society Prize for Science Books’. The winner of the 2010 prize was Nick Lane, for ‘Life Ascending’.