Tarantula Science Projects

julesaussies

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Hi. My niece is starting 7th grade this fall and will have the yearly science project to do. We were trying to think of some different ideas related to T's. We were even starting to think ahead for the 8th grade science project so we could take on a project that would take longer to collect data on. Any ideas for either a shorter term or long term projects??? You know if it's a T science project it WILL be the coolest one there!! :eek:
 

Nerri1029

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compare growth rates based on food?
- with a year and a half till 8th grade you can easily get decent growth from slings that you get now.

Just becareful with how your experiment is designed.
and make sure that parameteres that should be similar for each subject are as similar as possible. ( Temps, light etc )

you could maybe compare growth rates for diff species and post up the exuviae for people to see ?
- P. murinus vs. B smithi and then show ultimate size and lifespan etc.

Good idea and GREAT that you are deciding to start now.
Let her decide as much as possible just give her loads of options, and definitely let her design as much of the experiment as possible :)

ok I'm just gonna hush now.
 

Moltar

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Powerfeeding vs regular feeding. Slings of same species... gender would be an issue with anything involving growth rates tho'.
 

DrAce

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There are some classic behavioral experiments that can be done.

Is there a difference in preference for warm/cool, light/dark, dry/moist areas?

This can be easily measured, and looked at for various spiders. Set up a long tubular arena and alter the conditions (as repeatably as possible) at one end to the other. Then observe over some time.

For example, take a long clear tube, say 8" in diameter and wrap black paper over one end to make it dark. Then place a spider inside, and check back every 10 minutes to record where in the tube the spider is (mabe have a number scale for position in the tube, 0 being at the clear end, 10 being at the dark end, and 5 being in the middle). Over time, a preference for one or the other should emerge. A different spider might have different preferences. These preferences might change over time, as the spider gets hungry or explores and gets used to the environment.

Similar experiments with heat and cool (maybe make the whole tube darkened), or different coloured light - use coloured filters on the light etc.

This is all pretty easy, and fairly simple to set up. Easy to interpret as well.

As Nerri pointed out, there are some important things which her teachers no doubt have drummed in. The first is repeatability. You need to be able to do the experiments more than once. Also, if she really wants to get brownie points, you could get her to contact the local vet and get him to check her experimental proceedures BEFORE she does them and give her approval. That's a very basic ethics test, and all grown up scientists need to worry about it - I'm sure that will make her teachers happy. I know she doesn't NEED it, but it'll get her extra marks. Also, she will want to repeat them on different days and maybe different times to get good data. Normally, at least three repeats are required before (in the real world) error bars could be put on things - I appreciate she won't be needing to get into this detail, but it's good to get the idea in early.

Lastly, make sure she keeps a RECORD book, or a diary, or log book of EVERYTHING. This includes ideas, designs, records, experimental data - including mistakes. It's really important in science, and often forgotten in the science fair projects I've seen when judging back home.

Importantly, have fun. There are some interesting projects, and there are dull projects. Often, the best projects are motivated by something. WHY does she want to know what the spider wants. Is there a greater scheme at work here? Does she want to make her pets happier? Maybe she wants to encourage natural predators of insects in the garden (and thought she should understand them a little better using Tarantulas as a model). That sort of thing.

Feel free to hit me up for more ideas. I used to judge as a Uni Student in the New Zealand science fairs in my region. It was great fun, but there are easy things that can make the score go up...
 
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ZooRex

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The entire reason I got into T's is because of the 5th grade sceince fair. The idea was to teach people about animals that most are afraid of, and show them there is no reason for there fear. My newly purchased G.rosea Shankar was the highlight of the exhibitation. ~ Rex
 

Drachenjager

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you could maybe compare growth rates for diff species and post up the exuviae for people to see ?
- P. murinus vs. B smithi and then show ultimate size and lifespan etc.

thers only a year and a half, not time for ultimate size for a B. smithi...maybe is she was a new born and wanted to do one for a PHd lol ...
 

DrAce

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thers only a year and a half, not time for ultimate size for a B. smithi...maybe is she was a new born and wanted to do one for a PHd lol ...
That's kinda what I was thinking. That's why I thought about the behavior experiments. They can be pretty quick, and easily adapted to new questions.
 

Nerri1029

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thers only a year and a half, not time for ultimate size for a B. smithi...maybe is she was a new born and wanted to do one for a PHd lol ...
Well of course you wouldn't see the end product :rolleyes: hehe

But you could show the progress made in that time.. and then get other T's or exuviae to show adult size.

I think the largest hurdle for behavioral studies done by Jr. High kids would be isolating outside variables/ stimuli.
Conclusions can be hard to be sure of.
 

DrAce

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Well of course you wouldn't see the end product :rolleyes: hehe

But you could show the progress made in that time.. and then get other T's or exuviae to show adult size.

I think the largest hurdle for behavioral studies done by Jr. High kids would be isolating outside variables/ stimuli.
Conclusions can be hard to be sure of.
That's where repeats are invaluable. And I don't think the growth experiments are immune to these problems either. Was the temperature constant through that period? How constant? Did you record it often enough over the year you were measuring. What about that big storm that came through? There's anecdotal evidence that they may moult with a change in atmospheric pressure... did that have an influence this year which will be absent next year?

Behavior studies like these are simple, quick, and can be informative. I did them on woodlice in (your equivalent of) junior high... granted that was on a group of animals, which meant averages were easier. And they're so easy to interpret - spiders are more mobile when hungry/breeding more reclusive when resting/eating/whatever.
 

Nerri1029

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.

Also, if she really wants to get brownie points, you could get her to contact the local vet and get him to check her experimental proceedures BEFORE she does them and give her approval. That's a very basic ethics test, and all grown up scientists need to worry about it - I'm sure that will make her teachers happy. I know she doesn't NEED it, but it'll get her extra marks.

Lastly, make sure she keeps a RECORD book, or a diary, or log book of EVERYTHING. This includes ideas, designs, records, experimental data - including mistakes. It's really important in science, and often forgotten in the science fair projects I've seen when judging back home.


Feel free to hit me up for more ideas. I used to judge as a Uni Student in the New Zealand science fairs in my region. It was great fun, but there are easy things that can make the score go up...
ALL REALLY GOOD ADVICE.. especially the Vet input :) often overlooked

I've coached a LOT of science fair projects in our local area.

I've seen some really bad examples as well as really good ones.

You've hit on some really good points..
( I am now on the committee for our local fair that has been resurrected since its death due to lack of grant funds.) and we are using a national model that requires students to get prior approval for their project.

The idea of SCIENCE.. is one that is often over looked in many projects.

"Why does something happen this way or that?"
"What is the outcomes if we change this one thing?"

Finding answers.. not just showing off...

My original suggestion was more demonstration.. unless you examine other factors and ask other questions.. Why does the P. murinus grow faster than B. smithi ? Can that be done at 8th grade level? maybe.
A corrolation between Sac Size ( numbers ) and growth rates?


So whatever subject she chooses, try to get the right angle :)
Research is HUGE.. in Judges eyes.. and a broad knowledge base of the subjects helps.

please include me in your PM list for advice :)
 

dtknow

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perhaps contrast threat displays or similar behavior between families...say old and new world?

Their have been a lot of studies on how tarantulas respond to tactile stimuli. As we all know, poking one provokes a very different response compared to blowing on one.

If you had a batch of T. slings it might be interesting to see how if any variables affect how long they tend to aggregate together.
 

DrAce

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If you had a batch of T. slings it might be interesting to see how if any variables affect how long they tend to aggregate together.
Ohh... now see that's a neat experiment - but it's a HUGE subject. In other invertebrates/vertebrate systems, this is often done with trace levels of pheromones/chemicals to recognise siblings. Unfortunately, this is difficult to detect/measure in most labs. I know a group back home looking at this in frogs, and were having a huge problem measuring/detecting and quantifying this.

To give an indication of what they ended up using, they had tadpoles in jars with water and a 'head-space' of air. This air was then passed into a neat device which costs a cool NZD$200,000 called a Selected Ion Flow Tube (SIFT - and was developed in house for the task) which used mass spectrometry/time of reaction analysis to detect products of pheromone reactions in a vacuum to quantify and detect.

And even after this, they didn't have a good answer.

But Damn, that would make a fantastic project.
 

dtknow

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Perhaps just taking a photograph and measuring the distance between the slings would do it.

Perhaps you could see how it decreases with age...or heck...whether or not different species even have the desire to aggregate as slings prior to dispersal...or is it simply all coincidence.

You could set up an enclosure and sprinkle the slings into it..and see how long/if they choose to aggregate together.

As the batches age, the experiment would be repeated until the slings no longer show any signs of aggregation.

The problem I see is that in an experimental enclosure slings may want to aggregate simply because it will satisfy their need of a hiding spot...so you'd have to think of something to fix that.
 

Rochelle

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ok....my own daughter did a science fair project last year in 7th grade. She used hissers. However, slings might give a quicker response to experiments? Cheaper to buy and tend to grow FAST with extra heat... However - Jr. High School boys should probably not be given free access to P. murinas specimens!! OMG This is definiately not the species to use in a school setting!!! Try A.avics or any Brachy specimen... err on the side of caution when exposing to someone else's kids (who may not realize the caution and respect needed for EVERYone's safety). Great luck on the project and keep us posted! We'll wanna know her grade!
 

cacoseraph

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i have often wondered how the level of ventilation would correlate to various aspects of obligate burrows burrowing

i suspect that real low ventilation would have less burrowing going on then real high ventilation

metrics would be a timeline with burrow depth or something like that
 

DrAce

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Perhaps just taking a photograph and measuring the distance between the slings would do it.

Perhaps you could see how it decreases with age...or heck...whether or not different species even have the desire to aggregate as slings prior to dispersal...or is it simply all coincidence.

You could set up an enclosure and sprinkle the slings into it..and see how long/if they choose to aggregate together.

As the batches age, the experiment would be repeated until the slings no longer show any signs of aggregation.

The problem I see is that in an experimental enclosure slings may want to aggregate simply because it will satisfy their need of a hiding spot...so you'd have to think of something to fix that.
This experiment is a valuble one, but I think it's beyond the reach of the student in question (respectfully). Basically, there are just too many variables. You don't know WHY the spiders are clumping. We know that there may be a humidity effect - many spiders in a small area lose less water than scattered ones. They feed on their siblings. Are they clumping to predate on their sac-mates? Are there chemical reasons? Is it light?

All of those are difficult to tease out.

i have often wondered how the level of ventilation would correlate to various aspects of obligate burrows burrowing

i suspect that real low ventilation would have less burrowing going on then real high ventilation

metrics would be a timeline with burrow depth or something like that
A much better experiment, in my opinion, and which has good motivation - 'can I make the enclosure smaller by manipulating the need to burrow?'. With a few repeats, this would probably give you the answer you need. The reason it's better, is that the question is worded different. The hypothesis is simple - Given identical temperatures and humidities, spiders in a poorly ventilated space burrow less than those in well ventilated areas.
 

cacoseraph

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i'd like to make a somewhat related statement at this time. *this* right here, is why i really like this hobby! a 7th or 8th grader can make useful contributions of the state of the knowledge of the hobby! no denigration to 7th or 8th graders, by any stretch... i just mean that you don't *have* to be a PhD to do good work (though it helps i bet, eh Ace? hehe)
 

DrAce

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i'd like to make a somewhat related statement at this time. *this* right here, is why i really like this hobby! a 7th or 8th grader can make useful contributions of the state of the knowledge of the hobby! no denigration to 7th or 8th graders, by any stretch... i just mean that you don't *have* to be a PhD to do good work (though it helps i bet, eh Ace? hehe)
Well, I don't think I've contributed anything particularly useful to the Tarantula database... But if I can guide the experimental technique, then I'm happy to help.
 

cacoseraph

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Well, I don't think I've contributed anything particularly useful to the Tarantula database... But if I can guide the experimental technique, then I'm happy to help.
dude... being firmly anchored in the scientific method is helping the boards out TONS... telling someone "no, you are going to be wasting your time..." and then *explaining* why is already helping out the community at large by not having a willing experimenter spinning their wheels in the mud and getting discouraged

and i have a very strong feeling you are going to own me and most everyone else when someone finally publishes a dataset to let us play with!
 

Stan Schultz

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... you could maybe compare growth rates for diff species and post up the exuviae for people to see ?
- P. murinus vs. B smithi and then show ultimate size and lifespan etc. ...
I would caution you to think twice about officially allowing a 7th grader (maybe 13 years old?) to keep and manipulate a P. murinus or any other tarantula that is known to have a potent bite. It's conceivable THE BITE could turn into the science fair project, much to everybody's dismay! And our hobby doesn't need that sort of PR.

How about using Brachypelma albopilosum, the curlyhair instead? The power fed males growth and mature extremely fast.

Good show, though! I love the whole concept!
 
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