Arachnophiles have to meet somewhere and the state of South Dakota is a good bet this summer. An assistant professor of biology at Dakota Wesleyan University has turned South Dakota into an annual meeting place for the American Arachnological Society (AAS) this year.
Brian Patrick offered some space for a AAS meeting few years ago, and now the main event – their annual meeting – will be in town to discuss, trade spider tales, and with any luck, spot a new species.
South Dakota is estimated to have about a thousand spider species, but only 400 have been identified by scientists. So the chances of finding new specimens to add to the list are reasonably good.
Patrick notes that spiders have developed a bad reputation, mostly unfairly. While he concedes that we are hard-wired to be fearful of certain “non-cute mammal looking things” he also notes that those fears can be overcome.
“In our evolutionary past, it was well known that certain types of organisms could hurt us,” Patrick said. “It’s deeply rooted in us with a genetic basis, and it’s what keeps us safe. The two prime directives of life are survive and reproduce. Those who are very risky do not always survive. If you touch the eight-legged thing to see what happens, you probably won’t come back and it will do some damage.”
The arachnological society will be meeting for five days, and will bring 77 spider experts from as far away as Japan, Australia and the Czech Republic.