Science

Phidippus audax

The little black jumping spider tickles its way up my forearm. I turn my head to get a better look as it climbs over the knob of my elbow. It stops, sticks its two front legs up in the air, and stares at me. At least I think it does. With all those glittery eyes it’s hard to tell where it’s looking.

Is the spider reacting to me? Legs up could merely be its resting position. It could be stretching out tight muscles after a long crawl or preparing for an acrobatic jump from my arm to a nearby tree. Or it could be trying to steady its balance.

I cock my head to the side. It rocks back on its abdomen but maintains the posture. I slowly extend my finger toward its face. It scuttles backwards a couple steps, then raises its legs again. Three times in a row, my movements triggered a response. It seems to know I’m here.

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Science

Tide Pooling

We gather for the American Society of Naturalists meetings at Asilomar State Beach to argue about life. We share our most specialized natural history discoveries and our broadest theories about the nature of evolution itself. We debate the scale and strength of adaptation, sketch out complex feedback loops connecting ecological and evolutionary processes, and weigh the behavioral and life history strategies which organisms use to deal with fluctuating environmental pressures. Are there observable, unambiguous patterns of convergence and divergence, stasis and change, or is most of what we see the product of historical contingency?

And when the day’s presentations are done, I go tide pooling.

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