Despite the variation in colors (and underlying gene versions), all of the happy-face spiders:
- have the same anatomical features,
- interact in the same ways with their environment and with other organisms,
- share the same reproductive behaviors and methods of catching insect prey, and
- freely mate with one another.
For these reasons, researchers consider happy-face spiders to be one species, even though individuals have different color patterns.
Intrigued by their variation, Drs. Rosemary Gillespie, Geoff Oxford, and Bruce Tabashnik, all then working at the University of Hawaii, set out to study the morphology, ecology, and behavior of these spiders. Let’s follow their investigation as they learn more about the evolution of “smiling.”