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Of all the female scientists with whom I have had no direct association, Jocelyn Crane certainly had the most influential on my own research.  I never met her and the letter I sent to her in the 1970s was never answered.  Still she had a very definite influence, especially on my Ph.D. dissertation work at Florida.

I first heard of her studies by reading William Beebe's "High Jungle."  Crane was part of Beebe's research team during his work at Rancho Grande, Venezuela.  At the time (the 1960s) I had no thought that her studies would eventually be a major basis for my own research on the ethology of jumping spiders.  

Crane graduated from Smith College in 1930 and soon went to work for William Beebe at the then New York Zoological Society's Department of Tropical Research. She would stay with Beebe until his death at Simla in Trinidad in 1962.  Her research at Rancho Grande, Venezuela, would center on the ethology, life cycle and taxonomy of tropical jumping spiders (Salticidae), but she would later become the world authority on fiddler crabs and produce a huge monograph on that subject. Oddly she did not get her Ph.D. until after her retirement, and it was not in biological sciences, but in art history at the Institute of Fine Art, New York University!

Her work on jumping spiders was published in Zoologica, the journal of the New York Zoological Society.  These were classic because Crane described courtship in several species, as well as the life history of several species in one genus - Corythalia - in detail, and tried to develop a sort of grade of evolutionary development based on courtship behavior.  Jumping spiders (family Salticidae), as it turns out, have excellent eyesight (unusual for spiders) and like us are very visual animals. Since Crane's work, it has been discovered that they also use sound and other methods to court.  In addition, in many species (but apparently not all), the males have some form of ritualized agonistic displays toward other males, which sometimes leads to fighting if the males are roughly the same size. Crane added to the work of several other scientists, including George and Elizabeth Peckham, and also described several new species from Venezuela. She also involved herself in the behavior of mantises and butterflies, before turning to fiddler crabs. She nursed William Beebe during his last illness and while still at Simla she met Donald Griffin, who was working on bat ecolocation (he also worked on bird migration, beavers and bee behavior.)  They married after Beebe's death, Crane becoming Griffin's second wife. Unfortunately she died several years before Griffin, who had started the study of cognitive ethology. While critics claimed that he had become anthropomorphic in his views, he countered that animals were given less credit for cognition than they deserved.

My only real experience with the place where Crane met Griffin and where she nursed Beebe was in 1999 when I visited the Asa Wright Nature Center in Trinidad's Northern Range and was shown the deteriorating roofs of the research station at Simla through a spotting telescope on the Center veranda. My association with Crane's work on jumping spiders gave me many important insights into the remarkable behavior of these exquisite organisms (of which there are over 5,000 species known- making the Salticidae the largest spider family.)  Because of her studies and my use of them for reference as I observed courtship displays of similar and quite different species, I gained a deep appreciation of animal behavior.  She was, indeed, one of my mentors, even if I have never met her.

Jocelyn Crane Griffin Death Notice in New York Times

Donald Redfield Griffin

Originally posted to Desert Scientist on Sun Mar 17, 2013 at 04:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by Backyard Science, SciTech, Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, J Town, and Community Spotlight.

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