Dear Café Scientifiquers, our next café will happen on Tuesday July 28th, 7:30pm at The Railway Club. Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Wayne Maddison.  The title of his talk is:

Spiders, Sex, and the Echoes of History

Jumping spiders are remarkable little aliens: they pull their stomachs through their brains when they shed their skins, they jump using blood pressure, their elaborate mating dances rival those of birds of paradise and MTV, and they use inflatable syringes to mate.  Their tiny eyes, built like scanners, can resolve better than a cat’s. And yet, like many other small organisms, they are largely unknown, even to scientists. More that 5000 species of jumping spiders have been found and described, but many more live unknown to us in the world’s forests, deserts, prairies, mountains, and beaches. I have spent the last few decades traveling to exotic places in search of the species still undiscovered.

We biologists who seek to find these undiscovered species, and to place them on the evolutionary tree of life, play a role not usually told in the story of science.  We are building knowledge of particulars — entities and their histories — rather than general laws.  But, our discoveries have become a map of biodiversity that reveals general laws, and explanations for life’s features, including why spiders pull their stomachs through their brains.  And, this evolutionary history is itself one of the most romantic discoveries ever made.  Imagine, a wormlike species once split into two species whose fates were so different: one evolving into you (along with many other animals), the other into the spider hopping on your house.

But, don’t worry.  Most of the talk won’t be about philosophy of science, but about these wonderful little gems that hunt and pounce like cats.  You might even change your mind about spiders.


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