An Australian spider that breathes under water and eats fish, frogs, toads and tadpoles – Dolomedes briangreenei – has been named in honour of Professor Brian Greene, an American theoretical physicist and string theorist and chairman of the World Science Festival, which he co-founded in 2008.
The new spider species was introduced to Prof. Greene at the World Science Festival Brisbane 2016 during its opening. The people of Queensland in Australia told the theoretical physicist that the arachnid was named in his honour for his commitment to science.
The World Science Festival Brisbane 2016 was launched on Wednesday 9th March, with the introduction of the new species of the Dolomedes genus (water spiders) – Dolomedes briangreenei.
Dolomedes briangreenei, the spider that studies water waves in order to stay alive, meets Prof. Brian Greene (in background), the scientist who studies waves in space for a living. (Image: worldsciencefestival.com)
Both focus on vibrations and waves
The new spider, which is endemic in Queensland and is found around Brisbane, uses vibrations on the water’s surface to navigate and find prey. While the insect focuses on water vibrations and waves, Prof. Greene studies waves in space.
As she unveiled the spider to Prof. Greene at the festival opening, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said:
“It’s wonderful that this beautiful native spider, which relies on waves for its very survival, has found a namesake in a man who is one of the world’s leading experts in exploring and explaining the effects of waves in our universe.”
Prof. Greene responded:
“With the announcement last month of humankind’s first detection of gravitational waves – ripples on the surface of space and time – I am particularly honored to be so closely associated with a spider that has its own deep affinity for waves.”
“The inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane will bring some of the world’s greatest thought leaders to Queensland, showcase local scientists and performers from around the Asia Pacific region, and host the brightest and the best from previous events in New York.” (Image: visitbrisbane.com.au)
Spider helps control a pest
Dolomedes briangreenei preys on tadpoles, frogs, toads and fish, including the introduced Cane Toad, Rhinella marina, making a considerable contribution to the management of this Queensland pest.
The spiders are also remarkably-good swimmers. They tend to work off rocks and the sides of pools. They are often seen sculling across the surface of the water with their two middle pairs of legs.
Dr. Raven, Principal Scientist of Arachnology at the Queensland Museum, said:
“When disturbed or hauling in captured fish, they will plunge through the surface of the water and swim quickly to hide on the bottom.”
Dolomedes briangreenei is a dark spider with fairly long legs. While males have bold, white stripes along the sides of their heads, females have narrower stripes which are fawn in colour.
The World Science Festival
The World Science Festival is an annual event; a production of the Science Festival Foundation, a non-profit organization based in New York City.
Meet new spider species: Dolomedes Briangreenei, launching World Science Festival Brisbane: https://t.co/pi4jYTvdVc pic.twitter.com/MfRudpHh7g
— Brian Greene (@bgreene) March 9, 2016
The Foundation’s mission is to “cultivate a general public informed by science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future.”
The Festival was founded and created by Brian Greene, professor of mathematics and physics at Columbia University, and author of several books; and Tracy Day, a 4-time national News Emmy Award-winning journalist.
The first World Science Festival took place at 22 venues across New York City in May 2008.
Find out more about the Science Festival Brisbane, a fascinating event – from 9 to 13 March. See the Program Listing.
Video – World Science Festival Brisbane
Prof. Brian Greene welcomes you to the World Science Festival Brisbane, which is open from March 9th to 13th, 2016.