When the opportunity came up for me to fly home for spring break this year I immediately got in touch with Kerri to see if I could return to the Waikamoi Preserve. It took a bit of quick paper shuffling but I was, again, granted permission and the day after flying nearly 6,000 miles home, I found myself back in Waikamoi!
This time I was prepared for anything.
Despite an otherwise rainy spring here on Maui, my days in the preserve were thankfully fairly dry. Setting up a reasonably secure studio was still challenging and, as I was limited to only daytime visits, finding the reclusive Tetragnatha capable of rapid color change was going to be difficult. On my third excursion, I found success! Knowing what I was looking for this time, I was able to use my camera and a powerful macro lens to record some additional footage of the spider undergoing this phenomenon in great detail.
Again, I sent my video along to Susan Kennedy, Rosemary Gillespie, and Geoff Oxford – all whom were excited to see it. The discussion this time revolved around a more detailed examination of what might be actually occurring from a physiological point of view.
The question remains though – exactly WHY does this spider change color? So far, no one has been able to answer this. While the process seems to be similar to a chameleon, the Tetragnatha doesn’t seem to change color to fit it’s background – rather it chooses to hide within plants that most closely resemble it. Does it change color as a means of protection from prey? Is it a reaction to light or heat or noise? Is it part of a mating ritual? These are questions I hope to answer on my next visits to Waikamoi.