through the retina to increase visual acuity (Figure 1A). Using
a flashlight to make the tapetum lucidum of the spider eyes shine
(Figure 1B) can make it easy to locate and potentially capture these
spiders at night (Bardier et al., 2015).
Independent Inquiry Promotes Novel
In an effort to promote independent lines of inquiry, we tailored
this exercise for first- or second-year undergraduates or upper
K–12 grade levels. This approach can easily be modified by providing more guided levels of instruction to better suit other grades as
needed. As presented, it can serve as a modular exercise to supplement any biology-based course that introduces topics ranging from
species diversity to ecology or evolution. We suggest that students
be presented with a broad list of anatomical, ecological, and taxonomic questions regarding the family Lycosidae, similar to those
presented in Box 1. Many of these questions are designed to be
open-ended, providing students with only a framework as they
begin their research.
Box 1. Suggested review questions.
• Spiders are classified as arthropods. What characteristics do
all arthropods share?
• How do spiders differ anatomically from insects?
• Do spiders possess mandibles (jaws)? If not, how do they
hold their food?
• How do male and female wolf spiders differ anatomically from
one another? Could you identify the sex of an adult spider?
• Do most species of wolf spiders spin webs? If so, describe the
webs they produce. If not, explain how they obtain their food.
• What is the tapetum lucidum and why do wolf spiders possess this structure? How is this structure beneficial to the
spiders? What would happen at night if this structure was
illuminated by the beam of a flashlight? What other animals
possess a tapetum lucidum?
• Wolf spiders belong to the family Lycosidae. How would
you describe most members of this particular family? Are
they common in your area? In what types of habitats would
you likely find them? What do they eat?
• What types of wolf spider species would you expect to find
in your particular geographic area of the country?
• For the two spiders you named above, provide a description
of the habitats in which they might be found. Describe their
overall niche within these particular environments.
• How many eyes do wolf spiders possess? Briefly describe
their basic anatomical position and overall function.
• Briefly describe (size, appearance, habitat use, foraging strategy, etc.) two commonly encountered species of wolf spiders
in your area that potentially interact in nature as predator
• What is the largest species of wolf spider in North America?
Does this species occur in your geographic area?
• What types of questions/hypotheses could you attempt to
answer by examining populations of wolf spiders in your
own backyard? How might you design an experiment to
answer your question? Consider the materials and supplies
you might require to perform such a project. What kinds
of data might you collect and how would you assess and
interpret your findings?
As students undertake this review, they naturally begin to connect
many crosscutting concepts identified by the NGSS. These include
learning about spiders’ forms and functions, their niches within the
environment, and the overall complexity and patterns of the natural
systems in which they live. Ideally, students would have access to
computers or tablets during a preliminary laboratory or lecture session. Box 2 provides a short list of some of the more informative
online resources we referenced as part of our own review. Students
could utilize a mix of these and other useful websites they uncover
during their search, combined with any additional course-related
resources to which they may have access. Students should be charged
with developing one or more testable hypotheses regarding wolf spiders that can be examined in their own backyards or in other readily
accessible habitats such as the school grounds or a nearby park. Wolf
spiders are active year-round, although they may be more difficult to
find during the coldest months of the year. With the help of their
instructor, students will refine and narrow their objectives and begin
to develop a sampling protocol to test their particular hypothesis.
Box 2. Information regarding wolf spiders and various field
sampling techniques is readily accessible through these and
other online resources.
Arachnids & Wolf Spiders
https://bugguide.net (identification and information about
https://www.insectsofiowa.com (identification and
preservation of arthropods)
(identification and home range of arthropods)
Figure 1. (A) The largest eyes in the center row possess the
reflective tapetum lucidum. The white rings in the eyes are from
the microscope light source (photo credit: J. Y. S. Hodgson). (B)
The eyeshine of multiple spiders when illuminated by the flash
of a camera (photo credit: A. Collier).