Sociology of Spiders

A tiny spider on a centre of an orange wall, in a halo of light

A diminutive spider accompanied by its tiny shadow had me captivated as I pondered the sociology of spiders and fear.

Spiders inspire irrational fright, despite the fact that most spiders can’t harm humans. The small percentage that can are not usually found in our homes and they don’t specifically seek us out for attack. Yet even I overreact at the sight of a spider at home (or in my swag during a recent camping trip!).

Our collective fear of spiders in urban areas is culturally determined, and it far outweighs the risk posed. Spiders feature as focus and metaphor for different types of fears in Western societies. Even amongst educated people, spiders are a source of disgust and anxiety. Why might that be the case?

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Sociology of Trophy Hunting

The despicable practice of trophy hunting has unique social practices that sanitise the language and images of animals killed for sport.

Ulrich Seidl, the director of “Safari,” a film that documents trophy hunting, says the language used by trophy hunters:

“‘create[s] this certain emotional distance between the act of hunting and the animals.’ ‘Piece’ becomes a byword for animal; ‘sweat’ for blood. Blood, Seidl says, is of particular significance: ‘They remove the blood from the photos so no one can see … It’s an indication for me that blood is very much a taboo in our society.'”

Source: CNN.

National Zoo and Aquarium

I visited the zoo!

The last White Lion seen in the wild was in 1994, in the only place where they are naturally found, the Greater Timbavati region in South Africa, where there are many white sandy riverbeds and scorched pale grass areas where they blend in well. They were reintroduced in the wild in 2001. What are their threats? “Man, man and man” says the zoo sign. They are hunted as trophies or killed when they are forced to attack livestock due to habitat loss. This is Jake. He is bored in the hot Aussie sun. Continue reading National Zoo and Aquarium

Unscientific Culling of Great White Sharks

The Western Australian Government refused to review a law that initiates the culling of Great White Sharks. In one protest alone, over 4,000 people in gathered on Perth’s beaches to protest the move. I’m interested in this with respect to the sociology of animals and wildlife conservation. Institutions like the Government and the media have the power to shape public perception of animals and how we protect or neglect certain species. Sociologist Corwin Kruse writes:

Human action is embedded in a world populated by many species. By any measure, the role that animals play in human society is enormous.

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Majesty of the Flannel Moth for Science Sunday

For Science Sunday on Google+, I bring you the flannel moth, photographed by Jeff Cremer and biologist Phil Torres in the Amazon rainforest.

 ScienceAlert reports:

“The caterpillar’s ‘hair’ actually consists of setae, which are long, fine silky appendages that, in this case, can cause serious skin irritations. If an unlucky person tries to grab one, they will get a handful of venom, released when the setae poke into skin. Like a bee sting, the injuries can be painful but, for most, are not life threatening.”

Continue reading Majesty of the Flannel Moth for Science Sunday

Social Networks of Hermit Crabs

Photographer Steve Simonsen has captured this astonishing video of hermit crabs at Nanny Point at St. John in the Virgin Islands. Read this interesting research from Tufts University which shows that hermit crabs exhibit social networking behaviour. Sometimes there aren’t enough shells for hermit crabs to climb into, or in some cases the only available shells are too big. In such cases, hermit crabs will wait until a larger crab approaches and they “piggyback” along, picking up other crabs, and forming “chains.”