Cross posted from my journal 'cause fx4 told me to
Just got back from Science Pub! The local museum's opportunity to stand a honest to gosh Scientist on stage, put a beer in their hand, and let them blather, only to pelt them with interesting questions after the whole audience has had a few pints of their own.
I love my tribe.
Today's topic was "Spider Venom: Tools of Tiny Predators" and Dr Greta the arachnologist was really into her subject - so enthusiastic that she rattled off the Latin names for many species and we didn't mind a bit. I was even enthralled, and I have a distinct "meh" attitude towards the spidies: I don't really want them crawling on me, but other then that, please keep 'em out of my kitchen and all is great. There's nothing inherently icky about a spider (in my view), but anything lightly crossing my skin gets the same twitch reaction, and no one likes being startled by something waving legs where you least expect it.
But I never thought of spiders as pretty.
Dr Greta does, and proceed to show us close ups of furry, 8-eyed faces with fangs or colorful bodies or ingenious camouflage techniques that her favorite critters evolved. Some of them were . . passable. I can't say I thought of them as cute, although she used the term.
Folks up here think we have brown recluses (which do Nasty Things to Flesh) and that the invasive hobo spider is harmful - hobos apparently don't have vertebrate-venom, and the brown recluse is a southern thing - LA to Louisiana. We've got no dangerous biters living here, except the ones living in her lab.
Oh yes, she goes off to strange exotic locations with her grad students and they stick their heads under rocks looking for poisonous things. They bring back a bunch of spiders and run them through tests, keeping them alive on crickets for the duration, then euphemistically 'preserve' them. I pictured rat maze tests and spider races, which at my table devolved into discussions of setting up a spider joust - this was at a brewpub. Instead, the arachnalabbers sing the spiders to sleep with CO2, then use water & a vomit vacuum to clean up their fangs. Next up, they send 12v of electricity into the critters and collect the ejected venom.
There was video.
The venom is tested many ways, from chemical decomposition to injecting to insects, mice, etc at different dosages. The spiders are gene sequenced as well, and from this they are making up evolutionary trees that can lead to better anti venom production for a wider variety of poisonous spider bites.
Good science. Good Beer.