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Photo of Stim Wilcox STIM WILCOX

Stim Wilcox was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1940, but spent most of his youth playing around with boats on the coast of Massachusetts in the summer and roaming the countryside of Oklahoma in the winter. He went to college at The University of Oklahoma, and after participating in a 10-day camping research trip to New Mexico and Arizona, realized he could make a living as a biologist by doing that sort of thing in part. After getting his B.S in Zoology, he did his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan (1969), on the biology of Buenoa, a genus of sound-producing underwater insects. This interest in communication led to studying underwater insects in Australia, on a Fulbright Fellowship, where in addition he found water striders making ripple signals. Switching his attention to ripple signals, he concentrated on experimental ways to demonstrate the meanings of the signals. Upon returning to the United States in 1972, he took temporary positions at Perdue University and Kansas State University, then moved to Binghamton University in 1976, where he has since remained.

The studies on ripple signals expanded into studies on territoriality, mating behavior, and alternative strategies and tactics, over several years, and are still continuing. In 1987, he teamed up with Robert Jackson of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and began studying jumping spiders of the genus Portia, which are aggressive mimics. These studies have continued through today. The studies have been conducted in the field in Australia and Sri Lanka, and in the laboratory in the United States and New Zealand. These amazing spiders show a wide range of instinctive ploys to capture other spiders in their webs, as well as learning abilities, the ability to solve problems, and even to think a little, including maintaining cognitive maps for over an hour, during such predatory ploys as detouring behavior when stalking prey spiders.

See Stim Wilcox's answers to Ask the Scientists questions.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.