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Spidey senses are a real thing!


Petra Chambers

A teacher with a passion in getting our younger generation involved in looking after the environment, getting to know other people by learning languages, and getting outdoors.

Today was another day in the field collecting samples with spider scientist Joseph Schubert. This time we were down in the Tom Groggin area of the Kosciusko National Park. It was a very different landscape from yesterday's mountain top, being close to the Murray River. The cooler, wetter more protected environment meant that we found a diverse range of spider species that were different from yesterday.

I learnt a lot from Joseph today about spider behaviour. For instance, did you know that some spiders can sense their predators and will play dead? They do this to convince their approaching predator that they are not worth eating. When the hunter comes close to them, they fall off the vegetation that they are on and curl up into a ball on the leaf litter below. Because of their colour and this reduced size, the spiders camouflage well into their surroundings and the predator doesn't see them. This is called crypsis. I had caught one in the small collection vial but then wondered if I had killed it as it behaved just like this!

I also learnt about the sample requirements for DNA sequencing. When a scientist is trying to identify new species, using the morphology (physical features of the organism) is only one step. In addition, scientists will extract DNA from tissue samples of the organism and sequence this to compare it to other specimens. For some larger organisms this means just a small tissue sample from a limb will be enough but jumping spiders are so small that there are at least 3 - 9 specimens needed. When you consider the time and resources required to do field work for sample collection this means a LOT of time, effort and some good luck must be invested to collect enough material for sequencing.

Yet again the persistence, passion and determination of these scientists has left me in awe!