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Aphonopelma taxonomy

Discussion in 'Field Trips (Natural Habitats)' started by Brent H., Aug 12, 2007.

  1. Brent H.

    Brent H. Arachnosquire Old Timer

    Hi folks -

    I posted this on the general boards, but felt this spot would be useful, too.

    I have been lurking on these boards for a while, but it seems appropriate to introduce myself and discuss some matters that I think are important to us all.

    First of all, I am just over a year removed from earning my PhD in Biology at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. I studied mygalomorph systematics and evolution under the supervision of Dr. Jason Bond. My dissertation research focused on the folding-door spiders in the genus Antrodiaetus, but my passion has always been Aphonopelma. I have stayed at ECU to work as a postdoctoral research associate, and continue to work on mygalomorphs.

    For those that attended past ATS conferences and for others who have been monitoring some of the threads at the ATS site, hopefully you know that I have started working up some preliminary data to begin tackling some of the taxonomic issues in Aphonopelma. Over the past week, I have collected DNA sequence data from approximately 60 specimens (and I have several more sequencing at this very moment). The preliminary results are interesting (I am not at liberty to discuss them right now), but as expected, they're generating more questions than answers.

    I am coming here to ask for your help. I am in need of WC specimens with accurate locality information to continue generating data on this genus. I am in need of everything, even A. hentzi. I need to have solid preliminary data by October/November because Dr. Bond and I want to submit a grant to do all of this "for real" by early January. Granting agencies want to see promising preliminary data so they can see that the work is feasible, so the more data I have at my disposal, the better!

    Theraphosid taxonomy in general is a mess, and sadly, there are few properly trained individuals in academic positions to work on these marvelous spiders. I am in a fantastic position right now to begin working on these spiders, particularly the ones "close to home", using modern taxonomic techniques (there is only one published paper that has made use of DNA sequence data for theraphosid taxonomy). This work is labor-intensive and is NOT cheap, so all the help I can get to obtain specimens is of utmost importance.

    If you would be interested in helping me out, please contact me via email, PM, or through this thread.

    Thanks to everybody that has already helped, and thanks to those that are considering helping!
  2. Texas Blonde

    Texas Blonde Arachnoangel Old Timer

    Can you please tell us what will become of the specimens you receive? In order to obtain their DNA, do you need to destroy the spider? Others, like myself, might be hesitant to collect spiders if they are going to be killed for the research. Especially since it sounds like you need such a large number of specimens.


  3. Drachenjager

    Drachenjager Arachnoemperor Old Timer

    pickled tarantula anyone?
  4. GoTerps

    GoTerps Arachnoking Old Timer

    AFAIK, Brent does not need to kill the spider... only remove a leg.

  5. Drachenjager

    Drachenjager Arachnoemperor Old Timer

    ummm what needs be done and what gets done is a differant story.
    The number of Ts that will be destroyed for this is larger than a particular population that i talked with Brent about previously.
    I dont care if it is nessary or not. I for one am not willing to destroy a population of isolated Ts just to find out that they are. That is really stupid .
    Oh wow we found a new species but in the process we killed them all .

    I would not have a big problem with sending him offspring from a WC pair of Ts but the shere number of Ts he wants is not gonna happen from me and if i have any say about it from anyone else.

    No Offense to Brent, i he is a great guy and i really have mixed feeligns about the entire thing. I just dont see a need to take a lot of WC specimins for this.
  6. Brent H.

    Brent H. Arachnosquire Old Timer

    As mentioned, only a leg is needed for a tissue sample (but I do need the specimen, too). I am also beginning to look into more non-invasive techniques for obtaining DNA.

    As for the previous comment, we have already discussed this at length. I never said I was needing an entire population and I am much more conservation-oriented than you might think. The REASON for this research is to identify species (aka conservation units), not to selfishly kill them for my personal scientific enjoyment. You cannot save what is inherently not known. What I did say is that I am interested in adult males and females (one of each from an area would be amazingly generous), and at some point for vouchering purposes, the tissue and/or a spider would need to be deposited into a museum collection.

    There is such a huge disconnect between the enthusiasts and researchers in theraphosids, and part of what I am trying to do is bridge some of these gaps. Both sides benefit from collaboration, and like I said, we are in a rare position for someone who has access to tools (and someone who wants to meticulously work on these spiders).

    I am all for having intelligent discussions about this here or elsewhere, and perhaps I will need to attend Arachnocon in the future to make my case. I just feel that some real progress can be made with everybody's help. There are few people with access to molecular techniques that are willing to give Aphonopelma a chance. There has been too much careless taxonomy in theraphosids and I think it's time for a change.
  7. AR-Tarantula

    AR-Tarantula Arachnoknight Old Timer

    The work that Brent is proposing is what has been sorely needed for decades. The level of confusion that currently surrounds Aphonopelma taxonomy greatly hampers conservation efforts. Llimiting collection and/or protecting key habitats is virtually impossible if you can not adequately identify which species occurs where (or even if the species in question is valid). Everyone who lives in Aphonopelma country could make real contributions to sorting this mess out by giving Brent a hand. The sacrifice of a few individuals from a site will go a long way towards a better understanding of what we have and how it needs to be protected.
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2007
  8. Drachenjager

    Drachenjager Arachnoemperor Old Timer

    The problem is with the ones we talked about is the small number of them at all. even a pair is a hard hit on such a small pop.
  9. Brent H.

    Brent H. Arachnosquire Old Timer

    Yes, we discussed that. But we also discussed the idea of adult males... let them do their business, then I can make good use of them before they die of natural causes. The need for both sexes is obvious, but I would be happy with anything (especially males). Spiderlings have limited utility... although I can still get DNA from them, it will take several years for them to reach maturity and we may not have several years to make decisions.
  10. Hi Brent. I think I have what you are looking for as far as A. hentzi. I know exactly where I caught them and I now have a mature male that just molted out. I will be mateing him with my females and in a year or so, when he's done all he can do, your more than welcome to him. This is a good thing and I'd like to be a part of it. Thanks.
  11. Brent H.

    Brent H. Arachnosquire Old Timer

    Much appreciated, thanks!
  12. geopet

    geopet Arachnosquire

    I hope to see the objections that were directed at this research project directed towards the massive collection of wild tarantulas from Chile and elsewhere. At least here the specimens are being used for science.
  13. Drachenjager

    Drachenjager Arachnoemperor Old Timer

    you would if you paid attention. The main reason i am against it is there arent nearly enough in the wild as it is.
    MAny of the local species have been over collected and exterminated to an ungodly low level.
    Places where i used to see them all the time, there arent any anymore. Not only that people that still live there cant even remember the last time they saw one... So maybe i am over sensitive to killing them for ANY reason.
    I would rather the tarantula keeping hobby be exterminated than the Ts to be non existant in the wild.
    I am hoping that things work out for me in the next few years and i will be purchasing land that have Tarantulas on it to preserve thier habitats. but right now i cant afford a box of sand lol
  14. Just to put minds at ease, I also have a few females for him to mate with and some of the young that come from the mateings will be returned from where I found the parents. I will continue to do this as long as I am breeding this species which will be as long as I own this species.
  15. Crotalus

    Crotalus Arachnoking Old Timer

    Funny to see how reluctant some people are with helping science out, while they more then willing to buy a few wildcaught at the nearest spider show.
    Maybe its like some dont wanna know where the meat on the plate is coming from, they prefer to see it wrapped in plastic instead of the gritty truth of slaughterhouses.

    Brent, if its any help - I can send you a male Aph. (after its dead) with the exact locale data if you are interested. Send me a email and we arrange it.
  16. cacoseraph

    cacoseraph ArachnoGod Old Timer

    not that i have any right now, but i am starting to get out in the field more...

    but would babies from a WC gravid mother work?

    and... i hate to show how vainglorious i am... but would our names continue to be attached to the samples as the collector? i think it would be AWESOME to have my name in a spirits collection at some "real" museum!

    also, could you provide a sample of a like, "collecting card" to provide you with all the pertinent collection information you want?

    and... would there be *any* benefit to, er, just sending legs? i expect i can find and kill or whatever the samples you want... but i am thinking that there might be some ppl who are ONLY willing to send legs... also, what about old exuvia?

    also, i am part of a local Southern California invert hobbyist group that would probably be interested in helping depending on a couple things. if you want, you can post to http://scabies.myfreeforum.org/ or you can just use me as a point of contact to them. you can post to our "Foreign Consulate" (http://scabies.myfreeforum.org/forum36.php) without becoming a member, if you like
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2007
  17. Brent H.

    Brent H. Arachnosquire Old Timer

    Again, babies will provide DNA. However, without an adult specimen to accompany the tissue/sequences, it's of only limited utility. For instance, DNA sequences alone will never be used to identify species (I mean, who has access to that?), so we need morphological samples. Unfortunately, except for in a few instances, only the adults have the "diagnostic characteristics".

    Absolutely! Your name would always be on the label. Not to mention, you would be acknowledged in any papers utilizing the specimens you send. And as an added perk, I have considered naming new species after people who may have discovered them. I will not hold any promises to that (because I prefer not to name after people), but if a person goes beyond the call of duty to help out, it's the least I could do.

    At a bare minimum, it should include the state, county, distance and direction from major road junctions, an address (if collected at a residence), GPS coordinates if available (they can easily be obtained from Google Earth), date of collection, name of collector(s). Also, any ecological info would be beneficial.

    Again, this is similar to the spiderling issue. An adult (or near adult) specimen is preferable to accompany the tissue. In order to preserve scientific integrity (which is sorely lacking in tarantula taxonomy), a specimen will eventually need to be deposited into a museum so future workers have access.

    Any help is greatly appreciated!
  18. cacoseraph

    cacoseraph ArachnoGod Old Timer

    another q

    assume i just got a nice tarantula out of its burrow and have it cupped up and ready for the trip to my house.... what is the best way for me to ship it to you? please be specific... i can follow directions well but when i improvise things can get kind of crazy.

    big sub-q's.... do you prefer to get live or dead spiders?

    if you prefer dead spiders, what is the best way, regarding your research, to actually kill the spider... i have dropped stuff in alcohol before and it was pretty awful. damn things take FOREVER to die and they convulse something fierce on the way out.

    would we be shipping to the address in your sig file?
    there are legalities that might be coming into play here, regarding shipping.

    sorry for asking so many q's.

    what is the like, drop dead date that we HAVE TO send the spiders to you by?

    thanks for answering all my q's, btw
  19. syndicate

    syndicate Arachnoemperor Old Timer

    so are u going to try and revise the genus Aphonopelma based on dna samples?is that possible?:?
  20. Brent H.

    Brent H. Arachnosquire Old Timer

    I can send specific instructions via PM or email... it's pretty easy.

    I only want live spiders. People get the wrong impression that taxonomists/researchers are heartless and feel no remorse. I absolutely hate to sacrifice spiders, even for research. As a result, I personally keep them alive as long as I can. If I have male/female pairs, I allow them to breed as much as possible. I seldom euthanize females, but I still need them in my possession for future vouchering. Not to mention, dead spiders are not too useful for DNA work.

    Again, we can discuss this through PM or email.

    The sooner the better. For our grant deadline in January, I would like to have specimens by October. This allows me some time to collect and analyze the data (this is not trivial).

    It's complicated. I want to revise Aphonopelma using a MODERN taxonomic approach, and one that upholds the highest scientific standards (again, this has been sorely lacking in the past). Molecules are important, but they are not the only source of data. A multi-faceted approach requires data gathered from numerous sources: morphology, molecules, ecology, geography, behavior, etc. A full-blown revision of this genus is at least a decade away (assuming we get funding and plenty of help); it's many more, if ever, if there is not funding and collaboration.
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