Convergence on Colour

I’d mentioned in a post earlier today that there was a second motivation for me to come to Singapore beyond basic biodiversity discovery. We are here to survey spiders for their colour vision, working with Li Daiqin of the National University of Singapore. I’ve visited Daiqin before, in 2005, when we worked together sampling jumping spiders. Here he is, 14 years ago, arranging our field work as we travelled by boat to Palau Ubin.

Li Daiqin in 2005, going to Palau Ubin for field work.

Daiqin is a well known spider biologist studying their behaviour, physiology, and ecology. In other words, how they function as organisms. Normally, these aren’t topics I work on, but we can understand evolution more completely by studying function (Daiqin’s expertise) in multiple species and mapping it on the evolutionary tree (my expertise). Thus my second motivation in coming to Singapore is to help study the evolution of how jumping spiders work, using diverse representatives from the Singaporean fauna.

In the last paragraph I shouldn’t have used the singular pronoun “I”, because really I am just part of a large team that is coming to Singapore this month to study jumping spiders’ ability to see colours. The team, led by Nate Morehouse of the University of Cincinnati, chose Singapore as a perfect blend of accessible diversity and world-class science. I’ve explained in a previous post why spider colour vision so interesting that we have formed an international collaboration to study it.

The five spider biologists converging on Singapore are Nate Morehouse from the University of Cincinnati and David Outomuro and Jenny Sung from his lab, and myself from the University of British Columbia and Kiran Marathe from my lab — representing in total five different countries (USA, Spain, China, Canada, and India).

And so, for the next two weeks we’ll be in the forests, mangroves, swamps and beaches of Singapore to look for diverse jumping spiders to study for their colour vision. We also look forward to the hawkers’ markets, the beautiful cityscape, and the friendly people of Singapore.

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