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Archive for May 30th, 2010

The very idea of knowledge has many fascinating angles. Four examples are the wonder of discovery (Hey, just think, that old person with dementia that you feel so sorry for is really very happy because of their new discoveries each and every day, even if they are just old ones rediscovered), the satisfaction of knowing (This doesn’t have to be arrogance or pride but can be refamiliarization of an old friend, like when I eat a good peach knowing beforehand that it will be good and confirming afterwards that it was as it should be), the humility of not knowing, and the “need” to know (OK, desire to know).  For example, the other day another teacher sent several students to me with a catch they had made behind the school assuming that I was the resident spider expert.  They would only accept a quick answer so I gave one, “Wolf spider.”  I said that I was interested in looking more closely at it and satisfied, they agreed to leave it with me.  Lycosidae is indeed the family of “Wolf Spider” and I thought it would be interesting to key it down to genus or perhaps even species.  So I got out my page-darkened “How to Know the Spiders” by BJ Kaston and began keying from the beginning.  But I couldn’t get to Lycosidae.  Oh well, thought I, I’m abit rusty.  I’ll go straight to the Lycosidae family key and continue.  Try as I might every attempt ran into a dead end.  I Googled terms to get me back up to speed; I worked backwards from supposed possibilities. Perhaps this had been a bit longer ago than I thought.  Then I thought to go back and read the family description. The eyes of Lycosidae are recurved and of two different sizes. Oops, this spider definitely had eight eyes of almost identical size in two straight rows.  Now I was experiencing knowledge-based vertigo, disorientation.  Oh well, the only other similar spider family is Pisauridae, “Nursery web spiders”.  They are fequently hunters as the wolf spiders and therefore do not build webs, but I did not remember any of that family being so big.  The females build a web around the egg sac and keep watch to protect it.  Before this they carry the egg sac in their chelicerae (the projections that hold their fangs) whereas the wolf spiders carry their egg sacs with their spinerets (other end!).  I promptly keyed the spider out to Dolomedes vittatus, Fishing Spider. I definitely had a female and probably pregnant.  The males have a white band down the center of the carapace and around the margins of the same.  This speciment was dark brown with tan spot on its abdomen.  These live near streams and catch insects, spiders, and occaisional minnows!  I enjoyed discovering the true identity of the spider.  The realization of what I did know that enabled me to discover this and the use of a once well-worn key, the humility of having been wrong reminded me of how little I know compared to others and the many things only God knows, while the “need” to know drove me on to discovering the identity and habits of a backyard neighbor.  Enjoy the pictures.

Dolomedes vittatus, Fishing Spider

Some people call it too much time on your hands, but being a good teacher involves a continued love of knowledge and a solid knowledge base.  Modern educational theory rejects knowledge base as no more than a trivial side light, emphasizing the art and practice of teaching.  Without diminishing these I submit that students want teachers that know something.  It takes time and effort.

From the Kaston "Spider" Key, female on the right

The author of knowledge and wisdom must enjoy us obtaining it in whatever respectable form.  To Him be the glory!

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