Behavioral Ecology of Spiders

In 1989, I began working with Dr. Susan Riechert on the behavioral ecology of the funnel-web spider, Agelenopsis aperta.  Dr. Riechert has been working on these spiders for approximately 30 years, so I am a relative newcomer to the field.  Our research together has encompassed a number of interesting questions, and has included working with a number of interesting researchers.  Much of the work has been done at two field sites: one in south-central New Mexico near the town of Carrizozo, and the second at Southwest Research Station near the town of Portal, Arizona.  Both sites were awesomely beautiful, and contained some fascinating creatures (in addition to the spiders).

This beautiful animal is found in southwestern United States and down into Mexico.  It builds a flat horizontal sheet web, which usually has an attached vertical scaffolding which interrupts the flight of insects, causing them to fall onto the web.  If they are an appropriate diet item, the spider will scoop them up, and if overly large, will wrap them up before injecting its toxin which kills them.  The web sheet is not very sticky, so the spider is required to move quickly lest the insect escape.  There is an attached silk funnel which extends into a subterranean retreat, which keeps the spider relatively cool during hot summer days, and relatively warm during cold desert nights.  Fortunately for us researcher types, the spiders are primarily active when the temperatures are between 19 and 30 degrees C.  Unfortunately, when the winds kick up during the summer evenings, the spiders may stay active all night, which has a profound influence on the sleep pattens of devoted researchers.

Our investigations and discoveries have been far-ranging, and included the following:

I'm hoping to continue field work on this Genus, focusing on two species that are widespread in southwest Virginia.

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