Your House, Your Arthropods

by ParentCo. January 20, 2016

Holy moly, do I have some bad news for you. Remember when you saw that tiny little jumpy spider in your house and it was small enough to be interesting and not terrifying? You thought: Hey wait a minute, I’m a great parent and this is a teachable moment! So you called the kids over to see the little guy: HEY KIDS, COME LOOK AT THIS WILDLIFE! Then they put the bitty spider in a jar and fed him tofu and called him Frank? And when he died you had to Skype Grandma in from Fresno to help the children grieve? Well RUN FOR THE HILLS because Frank was NOT the only one. Not even close. In fact, Frank is one of at least 100 species of arthropods living in your house. Yes. Let’s review: that’s not 100 little Franks, that’s not even 100 individual creatures - that’s ONE HUNDRED DIFFERENT SPECIES - in your freaking house. In my house. IN EVERYONE’S HOUSE. Gotta go burn my house down. Brb. Ok, WAIT A MINUTE, there’s actually some good news here. For instance, none of these creatures are out to get you, or me. They’re just trying to get through life like the rest of us, and our houses are a nice place to crash. In fact, which arthropods thrive in our homes depends on our house's particular characteristics. It's like AirBnB for bugs. Maybe they could write some reviews: Great basement, dark and dank, would stay again. --House Centipede Additionally, the truth is, this public science project - Arthropods of Our Home - is really cool. The Rob Dunn Lab at North Carolina State University, responsible for this collaborative study, focuses on the ecology of our everyday lives: Rob Dunn and the scientists, communicators and volunteers in his lab aim to tell the stories of the small species–whether on our bodies, under our beds or in our backyards–humans interact with every day but tend to ignore. The ecology and evolution of these species in our private places has barely begun to be explored. According to the project site, this particular study set out to explore three hypotheses:
  1. The diversity of arthropods in homes is much higher than you and scientists tend to think.
  2. Your home is a biome like any other, and its physical characteristics influence the arthropod communities inside it.
  3. Your everyday behaviors influence the arthropod communities inside your home
Through public participation, scientists found over 500 different species among the 50 homes used as collection sites. Um, well, hypotheses CONFIRMED. Bertone-Graph-SIDEBAR-FULL-1024x881 Entomologists Michelle Trautwein of the California Academy of Sciences, and Matt Bertone of North Carolina State University, co-authored the study published this week in PeerJ. But why bother tormenting the citizens of the world with this information? In a Cal Academy interview, Trautwein explains her interest in this kind of research: Often people have the idea that biodiversity is something that you find only in remote locations in the rainforest or on coral reefs but the truth is, it's all around us, even in our own homes. You can keep tabs on the development of this investigation as the project moves beyond North Carolina to San Francisco. From there, the study will explore bugs in houses on all seven continents. So the whole world can be terrified together. THANKS A LOT, SCIENTISTS. tip: for a full list of bugs to fuel your nightmares, click here. Source: PeerJ, Rob Dunn Lab, Cal Academy, Science Daily



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