Jason Bond, professor and the Schlinger Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, has received a 4-year, $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant to study trapdoor spiders in the California Floristic Province.
“The idea is to look at the genomic diversity of trapdoor spider populations across the California landscape and identify new species and hotspots of diversity,” said Bond, principal investigator of the collaborative award, shared with Marshal Hedin, professor of biology at San Diego State University (SDSU).
“From a research perspective, this is pretty exciting but it also includes a really nice educational component working with Fran Keller at Folsom Lake College (a UC Davis alumnus),” Bond said. “We have REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) funding for students who will be transferring to UC Davis.”
Also working on the grant is co-PI James Starrett, project scientist in the Bond lab.
Trapdoor spiders construct their burrows with a corklike or wafer trap door made of soil, vegetation and silk. They belong to a number of related families placed in the order Araneae, including Euctenizidae and Halonoproctidae.
The researchers also will be using “crowdsourced” data from iNaturalist, involving public sightings of spiders.
The California Floristic Province is a floristic province with a Mediterranean-type climate on the Pacific Coast. In addition to its remarkable spider diversity, this biodiversity hotspot is known for its giant sequoias and coastal redwoods.
“One of the first products from the project will be the description of a new trapdoor spider genus and species from Moss Landing State Beach,” Bond said. Plans call for the public to suggest candidate names for the new species, with the Bohart Museum of Entomology selecting the winner.
The abstract: “Using a combination of original fieldwork, newly developed analytical methods for genetically identifying species and their evolutionary and geographic relationships, this research project will focus on trapdoor spiders and their relatives as an exemplary group for biodiversity knowledge and conservation in the California Floristic Province (CA-FP). Long-term surveys will be conducted at multiple geographic locations that include most major CA-FP habitat types. At these sites, the presence of spider species and the numbers of individuals in each will be measured to provide a statistical baseline for future monitoring efforts. New large DNA datasets, based on analysis of thousands of genes, will be generated by analysis of the genomes of these species.”
“New methods will be applied to this data to identify species boundaries, and formal taxonomic descriptions will be made for all new species,” according to the abstract. “The new information about these new species and their genetic relationships will be used to assess patterns of biodiversity in this spider group across the complex geography of the CA-FP. Statistical comparisons of the geographic patterns of spider species distribution will be made to CA-FP plants and vertebrates, and these results will be used to determine whether biodiversity hotspots coincide with federal, state, and locally protected areas.”
“This project will train students and other researchers in several techniques of field biology research, producing and analyzing new data from genomes, using cutting edge methods. This research will encourage participation and train a select group of community college students from underrepresented groups who plan to transfer to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs in four-year colleges.”
Bond and colleagues recently published research in the journal Systematic Biology that recognizes eight new spider families—five elevations in rank and three brand new family level rank names, along with one new subfamily. This is in addition to other new families that Bond and Hedin proposed last year. Postdoctoral researcher Vera Opatova of the Bond lab (she recently left for a position in Prague), is the first author on the Systematic Biology paper, "Phylogenetic Systematics and Evolution of the Spider Infraorder Mygalomorphae Using Genomic Scale Data," and Bond is the senior author.
Hedin is the principal investigator of a continuing grant, “Collaborative Research: Phylogenomics, Spatial Phylogenetics and Conservation Prioritization in Trapdoor Spiders (and Kin) of the California Floristic Province,” with co-principal investigator and Jeet Sukemaran, SDSU assistant professor who specializes in computational evolutionary biology.
Rebecca Godwin won first in the poster competition for her research on trapdoor spiders and Lacie Newton won second for her oral presentation on species delimitation. Their major professor, Jason Bond, is the department's Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics.
Godwin titled her work, “Revision of New World Ummidia (Mygalomorphae, Halonoproctidae)”: Her abstract: “Ummidia is a historically taxonomically difficult group of spiders belonging to the infraorder Mygalomorphae, one of the three main lineages recognized within spiders. Mygalomorph life history and their incredibly cryptic appearance make them difficult to identify, as a result they are frequently overlooked by spider systematists. Ummidia Thorell 1875 is a wide-ranging genus of trapdoor spider found both in the Mediterranean region of the Old World and in the New World from the eastern United States south to Brazil. Taxonomic work on New World Ummidia is sparse outside of original descriptions, the most recent of which are over half a century old."
"I am revising the genus Ummidia in the Nearctic region. I have approached this taxonomic problem by examining approximately 700 specimens of Ummidia from various collections (American Museum of Natural History, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Florida State Collection of Arthropods, California Academy of Sciences, and Auburn University Museum of Natural History). Examination of museum material has seemingly confirmed the undescribed diversity of Ummidia; preliminary estimates of New World species ranging between 50 and 60, with particularly high amounts of diversity in the Florida and Virginia. This study, along with many others conducted utilizing museum collections, is indicative of the importance of natural history collections and their usefulness in discovering unknown biodiversity.”
"Previous research by Hendrixson and Bond (2005) described a new sympatric species Antrodiaetus microunicolor in the A. unicolor species complex using morphological criteria (i.e. size and setal character differences) and behavioral criteria (non-overlapping mating seasons). Subsequently, they used two molecular markers COI and 28S and discovered that A. unicolor is paraphyletic with respect to A. microunicolor. To further delineate this species complex, we implement the cohesion species concept and employ multiple lines of evidence for testing genetic exchangeability and ecological interchangeability. Our integrative approach includes extensively sampling homologous loci across the genome using a version of RADseq called 3RAD, assessing population structure across their geographic range, and evaluating ecological similarity by niche-based distribution modeling. Based on our analyses, we conclude that this species complex has two or three species in addition to A. microunicolor.”
Godwin holds two degrees from Auburn University: her bachelor's degree in zoology in 2004, and her master's degree in wetland biology in 2011. She began her doctoral studies at Auburn University in 2014, and transferred to UC Davis when Bond accepted the UC Davis position in 2018.
Godwin's research interests include taxonomy, systematics, and phylogreography of trapdoor spiders, as well as effective science communication and increasing general science literacy.
Newton received her bachelor of science degree from Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss., in 2016, and then joined the Auburn University doctoral program. Like Godwin, she transferred to UC Davis with her major professor in 2018. Newton served as an undergraduate teaching assistant at Millsaps College for “Introduction to Cell Biology” and “General Zoology,” and as a graduate teaching assistant in “Introduction to Biology” at Auburn University.
Newton now serves as a graduate teaching assistant at UC Davis for “Introduction to Biology: Biodiversity and the Tree of Life.” She won the 2019-2020 George H. Vansell Scholarship, UC Davis. Her research interests include systematics, species delimitation, and phylogeography of spiders; phylogenetics; comparative transcriptomics of troglophilic and troglobitic spiders; cave biology and conservation.
Both Godwin and Newton volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's programs on spiders and at the campuswide UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day.
Bond joined the UC Davis faculty after a seven-year academic career at Auburn University, Ala. He served as professor of biology and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences from January 2016 to July 2018, and as curator of arachnids and myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, and related animals) at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, from August 2011 to July 2018.
She studies with major professor Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Godwin delivered her presentation—her first ever at an ESA meeting--on “Phylogeny of a Cosmopolitan Family of Morphologically Conserved Trapdoor Spiders (Mygalomorphae, Ctenizidae) Using Anchored Hybrid Enrichment, with a Description of the Family Halonoproctidae Pocock 1901.”
Godwin competed against nine other presenters in her category, "Graduate Student 10-Minute Presentations: Phylogenetics" (within the ESA Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Section).
As a prize winner, she received a year's membership to ESA and a certificate. Overall, the ESA program drew 265 scientific sessions featuring 2,430 oral and 569 poster presentations with presenters from 68 different countries, according to Joe Rominiecki, ESA manager of communications. The submissions in the student competitions totaled 773, he said, adding “A student may enter both the Student 3-Minute Presentation Competition and the Student Poster Competition.”
Godwin's dissertation research deals generally with trapdoor spiders in the family Ctenizidae. “These spiders are distributed across the globe, on every continent but Antarctica,” she noted. “They create silk-lined burrows with cryptic trap doors in which they spend their entire lives. Broadly, I am studying the evolutionary history and phylogenetic relationships among the members of the Ctenizidae, and describing a large amount of previously undocumented diversity along the way. Specifically, my dissertation addresses the monophyly of the family, phylogeography of two genera, Hebestatis and Bothriocyrtum, which occur in the California Floristic Province, and a revision of the genus Ummidia in North and South America.”
The abstract of her ESA presentation:
“The mygalomorph family Ctenizidae previously had a world-wide distribution and contained nine genera and 135 species. However, the monophyly of this group had long been questioned on both morphological and molecular grounds. We use Anchored Hybrid Enrichment (AHE) to gather hundreds of loci from across the genome for reconstructing the phylogenetic relationships among the nine genera and test the monophyly of the family. We also reconstruct the possible ancestral ranges of the most inclusive clade recovered.”
“Using AHE, we generate a supermatrix of 565 loci and 115,209 bp for 27 individuals. For the first time, analyses using all nine genera produce results definitively establishing the non-monophyly of Ctenizidae. A lineage formed exclusively by representatives of South African Stasimopus was placed as the sister group to the remaining taxa in the tree, and the Mediterranean Cteniza and Cyrtocarenum were recovered with high support as sister to exemplars of Euctenizidae, Migidae, and Idiopidae. All the remaining genera—Bothriocyrtum, Conothele, Cyclocosmia, Hebestatis, Latouchia, and Ummidia—share a common ancestor. Based on these results, we elevated this clade to the level of family. Our results definitively establish both the non-monophyly of the Ctenizidae and non-validity of the subfamilies Ummidiinae and Ctenizinae. We formally described the family Halonoproctidae Pocock 1901 and infer that the family's most recent common ancestor was likely distributed in western North America and Asia.”
Godwin holds a bachelor of science degree in zoology (2004) and a master's degree in wetland biology (2011) from Auburn (Ala.) University. She joined the doctoral program at Auburn University in 2016 and transferred to UC Davis this year, joining her major professor Jason Bond, a seven-year Auburn faculty member who chaired the Department of Biological Sciences, and curated arachnids and myriapods at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History.
Godwin will be among those participating in the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on "Eight-Legged Wonders" on Saturday, March 9, from 1 to 4 p.m. The Bohart is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. She was featured in a recent article in the Savannah Morning News, Georgia, on trapdoor spiders.
Indeed, spiders rank high on Americans' phobia list, often fifth in line behind fear of snakes, public speaking, heights, and small space confinement (claustrophobia). While arachnophobians cringe at the very sight of a spider, these eight-legged critters excite, enthrall and engage Professor Bond, an international arachnid authority whose research spans nearly three decades.
“Spiders are an incredibly diverse group with more than 50,000 species described with probably another 200,000 remaining to yet be discovered,” said Bond, who joined the department in July from Auburn University, Alabama. “They are quite ancient, with fossils dating back well over 300 million year and are known to be exclusively predatory. In fact, based on a study published last year, spiders are estimated to consume somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 million tons of insect biomass.” Spiders are an incredibly diverse group with nearly 50,000 species described with probably another 250,000 undescribed.
“To capture insects, and other prey item--sometimes even vertebrates-- most spiders employ silk and venom to snare and subdue their victims,” the arachnologist said. “Spider silk is an amazingly strong, proteinaceous material that is produced in many different forms; venoms are likewise complex, diverse proteins. All of this to say – what's not to like – spiders are a tremendously ecological important predatory group, that has persisted on the planet for 100s of millions of years and employ a remarkable suite of silks and venoms to make a living.”
Highly respected for his expertise on spiders, Bond served as the plenary keynote speaker at the 2016 International Arachnological Congress, and also keynoted the 2012 European Arachnological Congress.
Bond's other research interests include millipedes (diplopods) and darkling beetles (tenebrionids). He studies how the fog-basking tenebrionids (genus Onymacris) in the Republics of Namibia and Angola, collect water.
Jason Bond received his bachelor's degree in biological sciences, cum laude, in 1993 from Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, and his master's degree in biology in 1995 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg. He earned his doctorate in evolutionary systematics and genetics in 1999 from Virginia Tech.
All three degrees focused on arachnids. His undergraduate thesis involved silk spigots; his master's degree, systematics of the spider genera Mallos and Mexitlia; and his doctoral dissertation covered “Systematics and Evolution of the Californian Trapdoor Spider Genus Aptostichus Simon (Araneae: Mygalomorphae: Cyrtaucheniidae).”
What drew him to arachnology? Spiders sparked his interest as an undergraduate researcher at Western Carolina University. “I had this amazing opportunity to work with two really well-respected arachnologists, Drs. Jackie Palmer and Fred Coyle,” Bond recalled. “My first research project was related to functional morphology (evolution of the spinning apparatus in more primitive spiders) but quickly shifted to systematics and taxonomy.”
“A real defining moment for me was a trapdoor spider project as part of a Costa Rica Organization for Tropical Studies field course,” he added. His relatively newfound interest in spider evolution and systematics coincided with the publication of E.O. Wilson's book, “The Diversity of Life.” Wilson's emphasis on the importance of biodiversity and the relevance of taxonomy and systematics “really influenced my career path--away from other options I was considering at the time like lipid biochemistry or bacteriology--bullets well-dodged!” he quipped.
“Although I have always worked on terrestrial arthropods--even as an undergraduate when I started working on spiders-- my education/experience has predominantly been in biology departments,” Bond said. “That said, I was hired in to my first position in 2002 at East Carolina University as an entomologist.”
Bond joined the UC Davis faculty after a seven-year academic career at Auburn University, Ala.. He served as professor of biology and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences from January 2016 to July 2018, and as curator of arachnids and myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, and related animals) at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, from August 2011 to July 2018.
In fact, Bond named a species of trapdoor spider (Apomastus schlingeri Bond and Opell 2002) in Evert Schlinger's honor. “At the time it was the type species for a monotypic new California endemic genus of trapdoor spiders we described (Apomastus),” he said. The genus now includes another prominent species, Apomatus kristenae Bond 2004, which Bond named for his wife, Kristen.
“Third, much of my research over the years has been in the American Southwest, particularly California,” the new UC Davis faculty member related. “I am chomping at the bit to get the lab setup and everything settled at home so I can start spending time in the field studying and collecting California trapdoor spiders! And, finally, this was a mid-career opportunity to get back 100 percent to research and teaching.”
“Although I remain very fond of and grateful for my past few years at Auburn University, I was primarily in administrative roles there, first as museum director, and then department chair, and thus did not have near the time to devote to students and scholarly activities as I would like. The move to Davis really represents the first time in career when I will have the time to really focus on research and teaching in a truly meaningful and thoughtful way.”
It was at Auburn University where Bond and his colleagues discovered a new species of trapdoor spider that drew international attention and a news story in the Huffington Post. They named it Myrmekiaphilia tigris, or the Auburn Tiger Trapdoor Spider, in honor of the university's costumed tiger mascot, Aubie. The discovery was exciting but not “surprising,” Bond told the Huffington Post, pointing out that it took taxonomists about 250 years to describe about 1.8 million plants and animals, and that this scratches the surface of what scientists estimate to be between five and 30 million overall species on earth.
Although the noted arachnologist has no spiders named for him, one species of mites, Torrenticola bondi, bears his name.
At UC Davis, Bond will be re-establishing and teaching the insect systematics course, ENT 103.
“My understanding is that the course was intended to introduce students to systematic methods, classification, and phylogenetic--of course, with an emphasis on insects,” he noted. “I think this course would be a blast to teach--so much has changed in systematics over the past 5 to 10 years, particularly with the introduction of next generation sequencing technologies--phylogenomics. That said, the basics of classification and taxonomy remain as relevant today as in the past; thus I would anticipate the course also covering some historical and more traditional topics, as well.” He also hopes to launch an arachnology course at Davis with arachnologist Joel Ledford of the Department of Plant Biology.
In the meantime, the endowed chair is establishing his lab in the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. “The lab is going to get busy here pretty quickly,” he said, adding that his first postdoc, Vera Opatova and his second postdoc Jim Starrett from Auburn are here and will be joined soon by three graduate students making the move from Auburn --Rebecca Godwin, Xavier Xahnle, and Lacie Newton.
Bond considers his move to Davis as one of the highlights of his career or ”what I think will stand out as one of the big highlights of my career.”
“Strictly speaking scientifically, I would have to say that some of our recent discoveries with respect to spider evolution have been some of the more exciting highlights,” Bond said. “However, working with students in the lab and seeing them to go on and be successful also stands out as some of the biggest highlights along the way. Everybody knows it's a tough job market out there and I would guess that most Ph.D. advisors share some of the stress when their students are applying for jobs – having them get the jobs they want and be successful is always a highlight.”
Most recently, his former Ph.D. student “and good friend and colleague” Chris Hamilton landed an academic position in the University of Idaho's Department of Entomology “and I couldn't be happier for Chris. He's a remarkable biologist, teacher, husband, and dad, with an incredible storied life who is going to do great things; it's great to see him be successful and get the type of job that he wanted.”
Meanwhile, Jason and his wife, Kristen and daughter, Elisabeth are settling into their new Davis home. “We've traveled together a good bit in the United States--a recent trip cross country that also included our yellow lab Daisy-- but also in Africa,” he said. “I am an avid fly fisherman and motorcyclist--since moving to Davis, I have managed to sneak away a couple of times for rides up in the hills heading toward Napa and Saint Helena. At home, I really like to cook – Kristen and I like good food and very red wine.”
What do people NOT know about him? What would surprise them? “I guess a lot of folks would be surprised to learn that I have not always been an ‘academic,' Bond said. “I was an aircraft mechanic in my younger years. When I was in high school, I spent some time in Hamburg, West Germany--at the time East/West was still split--as an apprentice aircraft builder as part of a vocational student exchange between a number of companies in Hamburg and Winston-Salem.”
“After high school I went in to the U.S. Army where I served for a number of years as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew chief. I learned from that experience that I would probably rather be doing other things so with money for college courtesy of the GI Bill, I got out and headed back to North Carolina to go to school. My choice of schools was naively based on a really attractive brochure showing a campus nestled in the mountains of North Carolina--relative to my current surroundings up on the DMZ in Korea--but nevertheless turned out to be a great choice.”
Spiders, too, turned out to be great choice--a bond, “a Jason Bond,” if you will, as strong as spider silk.