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Widow spider research at the forefront  pre‐congress 16.08.2020
Organizers: Yael Lubin (Ben‐Gurion University of the Negev, Israel) & Lenka Sentenská (University of Toronto, Scarborough, Canada)

Recently there have been notable advances in many fields of research using widow spiders as emerging model organisms. Some examples are the identification of sex pheromones; elucidation of internal morphology of female genitalia; understanding the functions of the 3-dimensional web structure and its modifications in different social environments; and tracking the geographic spread, gene flow and behavioural, physiological, and life-history traits of invasive widow species. In the present symposium, we will describe why widow spiders are tractable subjects for a range of different types of field and laboratory studies using a wide variety of techniques; review the types of questions that have motivated research on widow spiders; discuss what insights we can gain from using widow spiders to answer general questions in ecology, behaviour, and other fields; consider what new approaches or tools could firmly establish widow spiders as model systems; and establish the next steps for acquiring them in a collaborative effort.

 

Evolutionary Hypotheses: do Morphology and Molecules go together or alone?
Organizers: Peter Michalik & Gabriele Uhl (University of Greifswald, Germany)

During the last decades, morphological characters have been less and less used to infer phylogenetic relationships among animal groups. As genomes and transcriptomes become widely available, and the costs of generating molecular data are declining, morphology does not seem to play a role in reconstructing the tree of life. This is also true for most Arachnid groups, where phylogenetic hypotheses are exclusively based on molecular evidence as e.g. shown for spiders, pseudoscorpiones and harvestman. In order to understand the evolution of traits, we usually map characters (often morphology but also behaviour, etc.) onto a given molecular tree, and accept the results as the best hypothesis, irrespective of how complicated trait evolution appears.  Interestingly, former homology hypotheses for many traits are rendered obsolete since these traits often not corroborated by molecular trees. Furthermore, molecules now imply groups with no known diagnosable characters, and no known way-other than sequence data to allocate specimens to higher taxa. As one of the consequences, for many spider families it became even difficult to write a determination key based on well-established morphological characters. In this symposium the invited speakers will present their – possibly contrasting views - on the matter that will stimulate a lively debate. The discussion will be moderated by Hannah Wood (Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA).

Invited speakers:

  • Jonathan Coddington (Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA)
  • Martín Ramirez (Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Rosa Fernandez (Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Spain)