One Scientist Is Studying Spider Evolution By Chasing Hurricanes

On the off-chance that you are interested in spiders and how they’ve evolved through time, have you ever wondered what’s the best way to go about it?

Well, according to one biologist, it’s not poking around your garden and looking for webs, so get up from your knees and leave those poor things alone. Well, it can be, but where’s the fun in that? According to Jonathan Pruitt of McMaster University in Hamilton , Canada, it’s by driving into a hurricane.

Chasing Hurricanes For Spiders

It may sound like something out of a big Hollywood movie or something you’d find Indiana Jones doing in one of his many misadventures, but that’s exactly what Pruitt did. In order to collect spider data, Pruitt reportedly rushed to the southeastern United States just shy of a storm coming and within 48 hours afterward.

According to him however, he wasn’t scared. Growing up in the flat state of Florida, Pruitt is used to hurricanes and “knows” them.

“As a kid ready for a break from school, I would always hope that our hurricanes hit during a weekday instead of on a weekend,” he said.

But driving into a hurricane to collect spider data isn’t something that happened by chance. Per the biologist, hurricane and their effect on wildlife is an important study. Unfortunately, most studies made on it don’t come with proper replications or undamaged sites. Rather, they are mostly just leftovers from storms that trashed an unrelated project nearby.

This sparked an idea in his mind, which then inspired him to set up multiple research sites just days before a storm would strike.

The More Aggressive, The Better

From this research (and the help of Florida residents), he was able to conclude that the more aggressive a spider is, (he studied the Anelosimus studiosus species) the more likely they are to fare better in a damaged environment after the storm. As a result, spider colonies become more aggressive in areas or counties that are more hit by storms.

“It’s only a minor signature, but a signature nonetheless,” Pruitt said.

Moving forward, Pruitt will now be travelling to Australia to find more cyclones and collect more data.

spider Having a fear of spiders can affect how you perceive them. Michael Becker CC BY-NC 2.0