The Crusader Online

February 22, 2002
Vol. 43 No. 16

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Wildlife show stars professor

Dr. Matthew Persons
DR. MATTHEW PERSONS
Andy Warhol once said, "Everyone has their 15 minutes of fame." In the case of Dr. Matthew Persons, assistant professor of biology, he will have half an hour.

A nationally syndicated television program featured Persons, whose claim to fame, was his research on spiders.

The program aired Saturday, Feb. 16.

The program, "Wild Moments," is a family-oriented program that focuses on teaching about various forms of wildlife.

Naturalist and host Jack Hubley gives audiences a perspective on organisms in the environment. "Wild Moments" is a sector of NBC-Hearst-Argyle Television Productions and is viewed on a national scale.

Persons has studied and conducted research on wolf spiders and their importance in the local environment, he said.

"I was excited to hear that Jack Hubley and his film crew were interested in covering wolf spiders," Persons said.

He added that many nature shows tend to feature vertebrates and other "warm and fuzzy" animals, not invertebrates like spiders. Persons noted that more than 95 percent of all animals are invertebrates.

"I was always interested in buggy, creepy, crawly stuff," he said.

In college, Persons had a professor who studied wolf spiders. From there, his interest was sparked and further driven by the fact that since few individuals actually study spiders, there is much to learn about them, he said.

"Few people realize how complex spider behavior can be. They have complex communication systems. Spiders often have courtship displays more elaborate than many birds and ritualized aggression displays," Persons said.

Also in praise of the creatures, Persons added that they "have more sophisticated cognitive abilities than anyone ever imagined -- spiders can navigate complex mazes, learn how to lure other spiders to their death by mimicking prey caught in webs and learn the motivational states of predators based only on silk and excreta."

Persons said that he is glad that spiders can finally obtain long-deserved attention. The Wild Moments program allowed Persons to introduce the world of wolf spiders to the public, he said.

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