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The Entomologist's Spider Tank

by (Edward) Hugh Petrie

Copyright © May 31, 2003

It must have been about 1973 when I spent a summer on a farm in Osgoode that supported some cows belonging to a teacher at the Kemptville Agricultural School. The house was terrible with no insulation and poor heating, so I felt cold a good deal, and could barely cope with the cold in my sleeping room when that set in.

But their was a large pile of National Geographics and there is always a wealth of knowledge to be found in them.

One article was by an entomologist who was studying water spiders, so, naturally he had them in a tank in his lab.

Standing water gets stale without a bubble pump so he fitted one to the tank to keep it fresh.

These Spiders were known to catch a small bubble of air from the surface and use it to function underwater as they breathed air - just like humans do.

It wasnít long before they were intrigued by the bubbles coming up from the bottom and they were observed to take their surface bubble and dive to the jets opening where they would wait for the right size of bubble to form and then grab it and zoom to the surface - over and over and over. Like kids or adults on a slide or ski hill.

There is also the Time/Life book series with a section on drugs where they found a spider stoned on marijuana would make a totally hopeless web while one stoned on LSD went to extraordinary trouble to make it perfect. Like webs you never saw before. More like machine made lace.

Many people do not believe lower animals have cognizant thought but these observations convince me they do - at least to some extent.

It was many years before I was to observe a clever spider myself. But thatís another story.

Hugh
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