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Using the Scientific Method to Understand the Brilliant Colors of Male Jumping Spiders


Michael E. Vickers
Entomology and Nematology Department
University of Florida
Lisa A. Taylor
Entomology and Nematology Department
University of Florida


This interrupted case study presents the work of biologists who are trying to understand the functions of bright color patterns in jumping spiders. It is designed to guide students through the steps of the scientific method, while also exposing them to current research in animal behavior. Students are first asked to observe photographs of colorful jumping spiders and to use their observations to generate causal questions, hypotheses, and predictions. They are then presented with real data (from a published study on color patterns in jumping spiders) and use this data to test predictions, draw conclusions, and revise hypotheses. Throughout this process, students are asked to think critically about how experiments are designed and are then challenged to design their own. Although originally written for an advanced high school biology course or an introductory undergraduate biology course, this case study is also suitable for more advanced courses that focus on animal behavior, spider biology, research methods, experimental design, or any course where students need practice working through the steps of the scientific method.


  • List the steps of the scientific method and explain why learning this method is critical for understanding biology.
  • List ways animals use color to communicate with mates, competitors, and predators.
  • Explain why jumping spiders are ideal organisms for studying colorful communication.
  • Make observations about the natural world and use these observations to generate causal questions.
  • Develop hypotheses to answer causal questions.
  • Generate logical predictions from hypotheses and design experiments to test them.
  • Evaluate experimental data to draw conclusions and revise existing hypotheses.
  • Critically evaluate the soundness of experiments (including control groups, sham treatments, ecological relevance, etc.).


Scientific method; spiders; color; jumping spiders; animal communication; animal behavior; courtship; Paraphidippus;

Topical Areas

Scientific method

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division


PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |   Science (General)  |   Zoology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

The PowerPoint presentation below can be used to display the images that appear in the case study handout.

  junping_spiders.pptx (~ 11 MB)

Answer Key

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Kathy Seiler, Ph.D.
Champlain College
Burlington, VT
This was a great case study for introduction of the scientific method for a non-majors undergraduate science class. The response from the students when they saw the actual data based on the author's hypothesis was priceless. Highly recommend using this for non-majors. Need a trigger warning for arachnaphobes, however. I had three students in two classes unable to do the activity due to extreme fear of spiders.