Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Letter to the Discovery Channel

Assassin spider with preyYou have an informative article on newly discovered species of assassin spiders from Madagascar. Unfortunately, the person writing the story chose to depict them as bizarre and ugly, with phrases such as "recognized by their peculiarly ugly, stretched-out necks and sword-like fangs" and "venom-loaded fangs, attached to the ends of grotesquely stretched-out jaws". Perhaps the author has a particular dislike of spiders or perhaps he wanted to avoid sounding too "sciency". Whatever the reason, I think that descriptions of well adapted spiders as ugly and bizarre does both the spiders and the intelligence and curiosity of your readers a disservice. Most of those who read the article will most likely be there because they find spiders interesting, not horrific. Besides, from the first image the spiders' jaws, head, and necks look a lot like the beak, head and neck of a pelican or stork. One doesn't hear of the blue heron as "having a grotesquely long beak adapted for stabbing its unsuspecting prey from above with lightning speed". In parting I'll leave you with a link to some images of beautiful, well adapted spiders