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TEACHING GUIDES


GOING TO EXTREMES: Spider Canyon

(Running Time: 12:09)



Some spiders will go to any extremes to find a partner. But for the male funnel web spider in one area of Arizona, such behavior may not be in the best interests of the species. Arachnologist Susan Riechert has discovered that the union of aggressive males from the desert with timid spiders from the river is producing a super-aggressive hybrid spider with very low survival rates. Selection pressure should eventually prevent desert and river spiders from interbreeding, causing a new species to emerge.

Curriculum Links
Activity: Nature's Tools Trading Cards



CURRICULUM LINKS


BIOLOGY

arachnids,
genetics
EARTH SCIENCE

biomes,
desert
GENERAL SCIENCE

adaptation,
evolution

GEOGRAPHY

American
Southwest
LIFE
SCIENCE


complex invertebrates,
predator and prey





ACTIVITY: NATURE'S TOOLS TRADING CARDS

The funnel web spider has evolved many adaptations that enable it to survive. From behavioral changes like hiding in its web to escape the heat of the day to physical modifications like those needed to spin a funnel-shaped web, adaptations are "nature's tools" for survival. In this activity, you will build a set of Nature's Tools Trading Cards. These cards, like sports and other trading cards, are a good way for you to apply your observation skills.

MATERIALS
  • paper
  • pencils
  • clipboard
  • blank 3-inch x 5-inch index cards

OBJECTIVE

Observe and write about adaptations in nature.

PROCEDURE

  1. Observations. Select a quiet area to observe organisms. (If weather prevents outdoor observation, you can observe a dog, cat, hamster or other pet.) Choose an organism to study and draw it. Identify a feature or adaptation you think helps the organism survive and draw a close-up of it. Take notes on how you think the adaptation works. For example, the web of the black widow uses sticky threads in a random pattern to trap its prey.

    Spider Trading Cards
  2. Trading Cards. Using blank index cards, draw a vertical line down the middle of each side. On the front, left side of the card, redraw the picture of the organism you sketched in your initial observation. On the right side write the common name of the organism, the scientific name and a brief description of its habitat.

    On the left side of the back of the card, draw one of the adaptations you noted. On the right side write the name of the adaptation (if you know it) and a brief description of how it helps the organism survive. Start your cards with pictures of local animal species. As you get used to observing and creating cards, follow up with library or online research to support your observations. Once the cards are complete, you may wish to laminate them.

    Click here to see an enlargement of the trading card image.

  3. Go Online. Take photos of plants and animals and substitute them for the drawings on the trading cards. A digital camera (or pictures you download from online sources) will let you import the pictures straight into a computer. You can also build your trading cards and make them available on your school's Web site.


CREDIT: This activity was contributed by Jamie Larsen, a science teacher and Tufts University Wright Fellow currently living near Sedona, Arizona.






 

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