Robert R. Jackson

Robert R. Jackson

Professor Robert R. Jackson (Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley) has been a Visiting Scientist at icipe since 1994. His home institution is the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. As an author on more than 270 publications, he has been especially active in using spiders for understanding animal cognition. The Royal Society of New Zealand and the National Geographic Society have been especially important in funding the research in Kenya.

Working primarily from icipe’s Thomas Odhiambo Campus, Robert has been active especially in research on ‘mosquito terminators’; spiders that target mosquitoes as preferred prey.  These studies  have paid particular attention to research on Evarcha culicivora, a jumping spider (family Salticidae) that feeds indirectly on vertebrate blood by choosing blood carrying female mosquitoes as preferred prey. Moreover, this predator targets species from the genus Anopheles as its preferred mosquitoes. This is a predator that likes us and eats our enemies: all human-malaria vectors belong to the genus Anopheles and, by being attracted to human odour (anthropophily), this predator is predisposed to settle in areas where human-malaria vectors are prevalent. A major new direction in this research pertains to local adaptation, including examples of E. culicivora from different localities in Western Kenya expressing innately different mosquito-genus preferences.

Research on E. culicivora is driven by an underlying broad interest in predatory specialization, with a particular interest in the role of cognitive specialization.