Meet the scientists featured in Deep Jungle: Monsters of the Forest.
Martin Nicholas Arachnologist Martin Nicholas shares his home with hundreds of spiders, but having arachnids for housemates doesn’t stop him from circling the world seeking more. Of the more than 35,000 spiders known to exist on Earth, Nicholas finds tarantulas to be the most enigmatic and fascinating.
In Deep Jungle, Martin travels to Peru in search of a contender for Biggest Spider in the World, a title currently held by the 11-inch Venezuelan Goliath Birdeater. Martin’s quarry is an uncatalogued species known as the chicken-eating spider because of eyewitness claims that it’s able to drag chickens into its burrow on the edge of jungle clearings. Estimates put this spider at around 10 inches across, from one hairy foot to another.
David Roubik David Roubik always wanted to be a tropical biologist. He began studying insects at the age of four and learning Spanish at the age of 10, with the idea that the language might come in handy working in the tropics when he grew up. Today, he is a research entomologist for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute with a particular interest in bees.
Along with David, Deep Jungle explores the role of euglossine bees in the complex ecosystem surrounding the Brazil nut tree. David discovered that they use the scent of several different orchids to produce a cocktail of smells that then establishes their social position in the mating game. These scents allow the bees to declare hierarchical power over other males and let the females know who’s the leader of the swarm, so to speak. Euglossines require an environment containing a particular type of orchid in order to breed successfully. Without this, the bees fail to breed, and therefore plants that depend on them like the Brazil nut tree, fail to propagate.