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Guide Index

Spin, Spin, Spin

Song and Dance

Spider Canyon

Amazon Tales

Arachnophobia

Viewer Challenge
in the classroom
TEACHING GUIDES


Spiders!:
Amazon Tales


Frontiers travels to Ecuador, where arachnologist Leticia Avilés explores some of the world's largest spider webs, inhabited by unusual colonies of thousands of social spiders. We also meet tarantula expert Rick West, who introduces us to native tarantulas and to a newly discovered species, named after host Alan Alda and seen here on TV for the first time.

Curriculum Links
National Science Education Standards
Related Frontiers Shows and Activities
Activity: Design a Spider
Extensions




CURRICULUM LINKS


BIOLOGY/
LIFE SCIENCE


arachnids, evolution, invertebrates

ENVIRONMENTAL
SCIENCE


tropical forests

GENETICS


 

TECHNOLOGY


 




NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

SCIENCE AS INQUIRY / LIFE SCIENCE
5-8: Structure and Function in Living Systems, Reproduction and Heredity, Regulation and Behavior, Populations and Ecosystems, Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms
9-12: Biological Evolution, Interdependence of Organisms, Behavior of Organisms
SCIENCE IN PERSONAL AND SOCIAL PERSPECTIVES
5-8: Populations, Resources and Environments
9-12: Population Growth, Natural Resources
HISTORY AND NATURE OF SCIENCE
5-8: Science as a Human Endeavor, Nature of Science
9-12: Science as a Human Endeavor, Nature of Scientific Knowledge




RELATED FRONTIERS SHOWS AND ACTIVITIES



ACTIVITY: DESIGN A SPIDER

In this story, we meet several spider species and learn about their adaptations to the world around them. The spiders Leticia Avilés studies, Anelosimus eximius, live in large colonies. This social behavior is unusual for spiders, but may be advantageous to the species' survival. Also featured in this story are several tarantulas, whose adaptations include the ability to spin silk and a defense of releasing tiny hairs that irritate an enemy's skin. In this activity, you'll design a new species of spider, with adaptations required to survive in a particular habitat.

MATERIALS
  • research materials (field guides)
  • graph paper
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • clay
PART 1: RESEARCH

  1. STRUCTURE
    Use your textbook or other resources to find out more about spider anatomy, behavior, habitat, adaptations, food, defenses, enemies, silk and webs. Guide books like those published by Golden Press (Spiders and Their Kin), the Audubon Society, Peterson's or the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness series are useful.


  2. SHAPE AND SIZE
    Research spiders of varying sizes and shapes. Determine which sizes and shapes are advantageous in different circumstances and habitats.


  3. DEFENSES
    Research how different types of spiders protect themselves from their enemies. Determine the relationships between their structure, habitat and type of enemies.

PART 2: PLAN YOUR DESIGN

  1. First, determine the type of habitat your spider will live in. Consider the following factors:
    • Availability of food and water
    • Climate
    • Predators
    • Any other important factors?
  2. Determine what types of enemies your spider might encounter. Will your spider choose to fight or flee from its enemies? Will it use poison or another defense against enemies? How strong will its poison be? Will this species require any other natural defenses?

  3. Choose how your spider will survive in its habitat. Based on its prey or food source, will it be diurnal or nocturnal? Based on its environment and enemies, will it live above or underground? Will it create its own home or will it move into a structure that already exists?

  4. Based on your spider's lifestyle, food sources and other needs, determine what size it will be. Then, based on its size and needs, determine its structure. How will it achieve gas exchange and produce silk? What will be the relationship between the size of its body and legs?

PART 3: IMPLEMENT YOUR DESIGN

  1. Design a two-dimensional model. Using graph paper, draw a scale model of your spider. Remember to include all structures necessary for survival.

  2. Create a three-dimensional model. Using clay or any materials you may have handy, create a replica of your spider design.

  3. Give your species a name.
QUESTIONS

  1. What are the different spider adaptations you observed in this episode of Frontiers?

  2. How would the adaptations you gave your spider help it to survive? Does your spider face any disadvantages based on its adaptations?


EXTENSIONS

  1. Create a diorama that includes the habitat and food chain in which your spider lives.

  2. What other animals have exoskeletons? What are the environmental advantages and disadvantages for an animal that has an exoskeleton?

  3. Compare spiders to other arthropods. What do they have in common? What differences do they have? Create a visual aid that demonstrates the comparison.

  4. To learn more about tarantulas, a popular pet, visit the American Tarantula Society online at atshq.org/.

  5. To see old woodcuts and learn more about tarantulas and other arachnids, visit www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~schultz/.






 

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