I am unequivocally a city slicker. I was born and raised in New York City, so I have very little experience with farm animals and wildlife. In New York, it is rare to see any wildlife beyond squirrels and pigeons. Since I've come to Ardmore, I've had the awesome opportunity to interact with far more animal life than I've ever had before. Beyond the typical cows and rabbits, I've encountered everything from frogs to tarantulas!
My first exciting encounter with wildlife occurred after several days of heavy rain. I had been hearing frogs croaking in the distance for a while, but I hadn't actually spotted any. While walking around, I noticed something fairly large moving in the street. As I got closer, I realized it was a frog hopping around. Despite being told by many cartoons that catching frogs was an integral part of childhood, I have never had an opportunity to do so before. I wasn't about to miss out on this one. Using a box I found, I caught the frog mid-jump as I yelled in excitement. I finally understood the joy of catching frogs and took several pictures before releasing it. Little did I realize I would soon meet a much rarer animal.
The Texas brown tarantula (Aphonopelma hentzi) I encountered in Ardmore.
As I returned home from work one day, I saw something brown on the lawn outside my house. When I approached, I was shocked to see a massive tarantula crawling around on the grass! It was nearly 4 inches long and was covered in thick hairs. No matter how close I got, the tarantula stayed extremely docile and continued its slow journey across the grass. After getting over my surprise to see a tarantula crawling around, I picked up a nearby stick to use to move the tarantula to a nearby brush, as I didn't want it to get eaten by a bird. When the tarantula crawled onto the stick, I was both awed and scared at how much heft it had. I successfully transferred it to a bush, then immediately went to look up if it was native to the area. I found that it was Aphonopelma hentzi, the Texas brown tarantula. These tarantulas can live for more than 20 years, and I was very lucky to see one in a residential area. Surprisingly enough, they are also kept as pets due to their docility and unique patterns.
One of the things I've really enjoyed about coming to Ardmore is how many more animals are present in the community. Even just seeing rabbits in the morning real
Michael Passalacqua is a 2016 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Plant Science from New York, New York. He is a rising senior at Rice University and is majoring in biological sciences with a focus on genetics. His summer research project is studying the pathway of a gene that, when inactivated, vastly increases the biomass of crops harvested multiple times.