Date of this Version
Prairie Naturalist, Vol. 54 (2022), B9-B11.
A field guide to spiders, the dominant terrestrial predator group, has long been a desire for North American naturalists, biologists, and spider fans, but not surprisingly, the first “real” field guide has been a long time coming. The diversity of spiders, with over 50,000 known species globally (World Spider Catalog 2022) and around 4,000 in North America north of Mexico (Rose 2022), is well beyond the diversity of more traditional field guide targets such as birds (about 1,000 species north of Mexico; American Birding Association 2022) or butterflies (about 725 species north of Mexico; North American Butterfly Association 2022). Also, spiders are often difficult to separate (even to family, let alone to species) by the usual “photographic” traits of body shape and coloration that are so successfully relied on for birds and butterflies. Finally, the average body size of spiders is less than 5 mm (Roff 1991), so many spider species remain quite challenging to photograph or to observe adequately with the naked eye. Past solutions to these difficulties usually involved smaller geographic areas than North America, and they often concentrated on commonly encountered and larger, conspicuous taxa. Spider enthusiasts without microscopes have relied on more modest guides such as Spiders of the Carolinas (Gaddy 2009) with “100 of our most common species” or Spiders of the North Woods (Weber 2013) with “135 of our northern species.” Dr. Sarah Rose succeeds in being a lot more comprehensive in her approach to the Spiders of North America, and while there certainly are not 4,000 species differentiated in this 611- page field guide, the arachnological community has reason to be both excited and proud of this arachnological landmark, which covers more than 500 species. It is indeed a legitimate continent-scale field guide, although not all the problems of dealing with this difficult group have yet been adequately solved.