Friday, March 24, 2017

Marvel Talks About Spiderman But Cincinnati Has a Real One - Science

George Uetz loves playing guitar and he loves spiders.  Fortunately, he is highly-talented with both and, thus, he has been enjoying these passions for quite a few years.  The talent isn't idle hype since he was on the WEBN Album Project at least twice.  He also raised black widow spiders for some research purpose so that definitely moves him into the Quick or the Dead category.

I went out to his house to play in a guitar circle and a freak is someone who takes a Stratocaster to such a gathering but, wtf, I had never been to one so I went over to get the vibe of it.  Everything was cool and I did learn this was not the place to take a Stratocaster but it was good anyway.

Afterward when all were leaving, Lon W looked at me and said, "Brilliant but disturbed."

I smiled and split since there really isn't an answer and I have tried, in my humble way, to live up to that ever since.

Note:  just in case Lon should see that, it's cool and the comfort for any madman is knowing we recognize each other.

Herewith, Professor George Uetz and he presents his wolf spiders this time.  This paper made it up to Science Daily so the Rockhouse brings it to you.  (Science Daily:  Biologists find surprising variability in courtship behaviors of wolf spiders)

Ed:  oh, man, are you seriously going to tell me he hangs out watching spiders fuck?

It's ethology, my brother.  Ethology is the study of behavior.  Fucking is part of behavior.  Ergo, he watches them fuck.  Better yet, we can watch him watching them fuck.

UC is helping to turn wolf spiders like this one (Schizocosa ocreata) into a model organism to study disease or environmental issues to benefit people.

Credit: Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

UC biology professor George Uetz has dedicated his career to the study of spiders, wolf spiders in particular. Spiders are simpler in neurophysiology than mice or other vertebrates, so their behavior should be determined more by DNA than any quirkiness among individuals.

But Uetz said spiders have more charisma than he ever imagined.

"There's a lot of variability in the individual," he said. "Some of that that arises from experience, just as in more complex animals."

- SD

Ed:  spider charisma???

Roll with it, Jethro.  You're the one telling me chickens have personalities.  Roll with it.

More than 200 species of wolf spiders live in the United States. As their name implies, they stalk their prey on the forest floor and in dry creek beds.  They are lone wolves, living and hunting on their own except for mating encounters, which are the subject of two studies this year by UC graduate students.

One UC student, Emily Pickett, examined two closely related species that look alike and share habitat. While the two spiders can interbreed, it's rare in the wild.  Pickett found that their unique courtship behavior helps maintain their genetic isolation.  One spider, Schizocosa ocreata, could woo females over a greater distance than the other, Schizocosa rovneri, by employing a combination of vibrations and visual signals unique to the species.

"We hypothesized that the two species diverged relatively recently.  This gives us good insights into the modification of species -- how one species develops into another," Pickett said.

- SD

Ed:  if you will take this spider home, you need to know the dance?

It does seem so.

Ed:  the Spider King made more Spider People!

It only takes one bite.

The students and their co-author, professor Uetz, presented their findings in March at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference at the University of Illinois. The conference accepted 95 papers from universities across the Midwest.

Students Pickett and Lallo are building on an investigation of spiders that professor Uetz began more than 40 years ago. Uetz has co-authored 120 peer-reviewed papers, chronicling how spiders communicate, select the best mate and learn from their mistakes. In 1976, he compiled a comprehensive list of native spiders found in Delaware.

- SD

I have regaled the Rockhouse Spider Terror many times but I still love how much Uetz digs them.

Usually the words for academics are 'publish or perish' but with Uetz it goes 'publish and do not get bitten by the spiders or perish.'  The Rockhouse seriously admires that kind of determination.

Ed:  it's crazy as hell!

The Rockhouse has never regarded craziness as a character fault.

They suggest an amusing pastime for the whole family:

Each new study begins at the Cincinnati Nature Center where researchers collect wild spiders in the forest.  Finding wolf spiders with LED flashlights is surprisingly easy at night. (Arachnophobes might say it's horrifyingly easy.)  Their eyes glitter in the lamplight like green gemstones.

"They blend in really well with the leaf litter.  But at night you can see all those eyes shining back.  You have no idea how many spiders are actually in your backyard until you put a headlamp on and look," Lallo said.

- SD

Tell me that won't be fun for the little ones, huh?

Note:  I believe the Cincinnati Nature Center was the stone building in Burnet Woods at the top of the steps.  Probably it's moved somewhere else since but that would have been such a cool place to work.  Hopefully kids still ice skate on the lake in the Winter after the blue flag goes up.  (If that's been stopped due to aeration or some such, I don't need to know.  It's a good 'un in the memory with that fire barrel at the end of the lake where kids would gather around it to warm a little.  That one is prime time Americana.)

Maybe the regulars noticed an article previously and I'm not going to chase it just now but that reviewed how spiders eat twice the weight in bugs relative to the weight of whatever all humans eat.  The Rockhouse Spider Terror is exceeded by Rockhouse Bug Terror.  Arabic logic applies in this circumstance since the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  Mosquitos whack millions of people with disease.  Spiders whack billions of mosquitos.  Therefore, mosquito-killing spiders are my friends.

Here's the bit you have been awaiting ... the spider porno and it's as salacious as spider love gets.  It's also dangerous.

With its antic mating dance, ocreata has a nickname in the lab: "the twerking spider."

The male raises his fuzzy appendages over his head while bouncing his body and fangs on the ground to create vibrations.  Generally, spiders that make the strongest vibrations have the best breeding success, Uetz said.

The researchers watched as the male began to wave his front legs and strike the filter paper. "Here he goes," Uetz said.  "Here comes the female. Now look at her. She's interested."

The female cautiously approached the male and did a curtsy -- a spider invitation to mate. The male frantically bounced and waved.

"Yeah, she's excited. It's going to happen -- unless the male gets a little skittish," Uetz said.  Despite her apparent willingness, the male ran away to the edge of the arena where he resumed his dance, this time a little less enthusiastically.  The female approached again and did another pivot and curtsy but the male again backed away.

"They were close but then she reared up slightly and scared him.  She's armed and dangerous," Uetz said. "She's not being aggressive but he is clearly smaller than she is.  He doesn't have a lot of experience."

After another minute of posing, the female suddenly chased the male in two frantic laps around the arena. Lallo rescued him before the encounter could turn gruesome.

- SD

If the disco dance went by spider rules, John Travolta might not have showed.

There's a wealth more in the source article and the interested student is invited ...

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