Frog and Spider Harmony
See that frog down there? Does he look terribly distressed? Not so
much. He's got more of a hunker-down, lie-low expression going on.
That's because this spider, a burrowing theraphosid tarantula
has seized the frog, examined it with its mouthparts, and will most
likely let go and move on, leaving the frog none the worse for wear
(well, unless you consider the involuntary evacuation of your frog
bladder as being the worse for wear). And this frog has quite possibly
experienced this before.
Of Cannibalism and Competition
Spiders offer up some of the best examples of sexual dimorphism, as
seen here in the dramatic size difference between the female (Big
Bessy) and the male (Tiny Tim).
Though I can't speak to the specific species here,
of orb weavers can have the male being as small as 10% of the female's
size. Why the size difference? It comes down to two competing forces:
sexual cannibalism and male-male competition.
The gist of it is
that if you are small enough, you don't trigger the female's hunting
instinct and you can get close enough to mate. However, if you're too
small, a bigger male can crowd you out of the race. But then, if you're
too big, you get eaten by your paramour.
The trick is to strike
a happy medium. Not so big that you get eaten, but not so small that
you can't muscle aside the competition.
This just gives me one more reason to be happy that I'm a
male. I did just fine with the male-male competition in capturing and
keeping my wife's attention. But if I had run the risk of her eating
me, that would have put a damper on my courtship technique (body armor
doesn't accessorize well).
Takahisa Miyatake of Okayama University in Japan has been studying the
red flour beetle for years. He has developed two strains of them: one
that will feign death for 20 minutes, and one that won't feign death at
all. So, what happens when Adanson's house jumper goes on the prowl
among these two groups? Well, that spider is only 38% likely to eat a
'dead' beetle if there isn't a living, non-feigning one around. But if
there is a living, wriggling one nearby, that same spider will go for
it nearly every single time.
Feigning death (technically called
'tonic immobility'--great name for a rock band) seems to work like a
charm among these beetles, especially if the beetle next to you is a
chump that doesn't know when to lie low.
You're looking into the colorful eyes of a female
though to me she would no doubt look like any other jumping spider. Opo
has observed, and this shot proves it, that many jumping spiders have
amazing colors in their eyes, though not many as much as
Opo noted through his view finder that a wave of red oscillated across
the eyes as the retinas shifted beneath the lenses. That would be
absolutely hypnotizing to watch.
It's probably for the best that these salticids are so tiny. Otherwise they'd make for the most amusing and distracting pets.
There are something around 2,300 species of
(family Lycosidae) the world over. They're found almost everywhere, so
I have no idea what particular species of wolf spider this one is. I am
confident that it isn't a nursery web spider (they are often confused
for one another) though, because nursery web spiders carry their egg
sac with their chelicerae and pedipalps, as opposed to the wolf spider,
who carries it by her spinnerets.
Damsel in Distress
This damselfly was already having a bad day when it came to a
spider-iffic end. And there's no Prince Charmingfly that'll come along
and rescue it.
, who took this
discovered that the poor damselfly was already infested with mite
larval sacs, which are the pomegranate seed-like knobs at the base of
its wing. I wonder what the spider will think of the sacs when he comes
across them. Maybe a bit of dessert? Maybe a little bit of mite
infestation for him?
all heard that old adage that you shouldn't shop when you're hungry.
Well, the same can be said about blogging. Don't do it when you're
When I saw the thumbnail of this image to the left, I
thought it was a bowl of ramen or noodles. Imagine my surprise when I
clicked on it and discovered that it was actually a pile of scorpion
babies latched on to their mother's back.
Imagine my horror when I realized that my hunger was still intact, and that I was wondering what they'd taste like.
are baby Serradigitalus scorpion babies, with the mommy shown more
prominently below. What I don't understand is what those white splash
marks are on the mother's back. Is that baby scorpion poo? Scorpionling
guano? Has no one taught her proper diapering technique?
I've heard of mothers being dumped on by their kids. But this is just so...literal.
anon3 has reported that these splashes of white on the mom's back
aren't scorpionling droppings. Rather, they are the residue of the baby
scorpions' first molt. I wonder if the mommy will simply shake them
off, or if she'll stash the hides in a box for a keepsake. I'm so glad
my eight-month-old son doesn't molt. Cleaning diapers and the wreckage
of what is left of his oat cereal is enough.
Tracy is a fellow arachnophobe, which makes her far braver than I am
for having placed her hand so close to the object of her fear. That's a
female huntsman spider (huntswoman spider, or huntsman spiderette?)
with her wee spiderlings in tow. Perhaps they were out for a family
outing, which is why Tracy had the wits to first close her bedroom
window before grabbing the camera and placing her hand in mortal peril.
said that this by no means the largest huntsman she has encountered.
She's had one the size of a man's hand in her house. I assume she means
that the spider was bigger than my own man's hand, which is currently
curled up so I can suck my thumb to soothe myself as I write this post.
One-handed typing is awkward.
Check Your Boots
backpacking I've learned always to check my boots before putting them
on in the morning. But I realized just now that I've become complacent
about inspecting my shoes when I'm home. Who's to say that a spider
didn't take residence in them on any given night? My property is
riddled with black widows, after all.
I need to be more vigilant. I'm talking Mad-Eye Moody vigilant.
Reaching Out and Touch Someone
telling you folks, you can't let spiders get access to your phones, not
unless you have unlimited minutes and some sort of beefy data plan.
those eight limbs they are avid texters. With their huge broods, they
have lots of family to keep in touch with. And really, do you want to
go scrolling through your downloads after a he-spider has been on it,
only to find risque photos of black widows?
Wolf Spider Spotting
When next in Cambodia, visit the ladies of Spiderville in Angkor Wat.
You can purchase yourself a heap of fried spiders for a midday snack.
much as this horrifies me, as much as my arachnophobia triggers my
fight or flight reflex at seeing this image, my taste buds are telling
me something different. They're trying to remember the last time
anything fried had tasted bad. They're telling me that maybe they'd
overwhelm my base survival instincts (well, cultural bias) and make me
eat one of these. Can my taste buds really hold such sway?
If my waistline is any indicator, the answer is yes. Time for some serious introspection. And lunch.
You can get a sense of this
Carolina Wolf Spider's
) size by comparing it to the cricket upon which it is dining.
can't believe I'm saying this, but ... achem ...**cough** ... humans
needn't fear the wolf spider. Or so I've been told (by possible wolf
spider apologists). These spiders are nocturnal hunters who don't climb
or even spin appreciable webs. They live in burrows (complete with
spider-made turrets as seen in the last photo), and pose no threat to
humanity (physically, at least). One might even argue that they are
helpful, since they rid their territory of insects, many of which
humans would be happy to find themselves free of.
Tonight I'm going to head outside
with my head lamp on and see how many wolf spiders I can see prowling
around my yard. I'm supposed to be able to spot them by the reflected
gleam in their eyes. I won't find any Carolina wolf spiders, thank
goodness, but I might still find some other wolf spiders lurking about.
I will, won't I? In the Central Valley of California near Sacramento?
What's the largest I might expect to encounter? What's the likelihood
of my wife coming downstairs in the morning and finding me catatonic on
the grass, curled up in the fetal position, and covered in a light
misting of morning dew?
Of Pool Filters and Pedipalps
Here's a fauna-related plug for Australia: It's the only continent on the planet whose deserts are not inhabited by
, being a resident of the American Southwest, has encountered her fair share of them. By fair share, I mean anything over never.
found this particular specimen on her property, and it measured in at
about two inches in body length. She just recently exhumed a dead one
from her pool filter, and it's abdomen was as big around as her thumb.
That's a lot o' sun spider.
Sun spiders, of which there are many varieties comprising the order of
Solifugae, are found in most deserts the world over and are not true
spiders. They are known for their massive fangs (chelicerae), and for
having over-developed pedipalps. In fact, the pedipalps are so large
(as seen in display above), that they are often mistaken for another
set of legs. But no, they aren't for ambulation. They function similar
to antennae, and are tipped with adhesive organs that help them capture
their prey. From the looks of the above photo, they are also used in
"back off!" displays.
Fair enough, camel spider. You don't apply
your adhesive pedipalps and fangs to my skin, and I won't apply the
sole of my shoe to you.
has become overrun
with hordes of giant bird-eating spiders. Well, maybe not hordes, but
this season has seen more than its fair share of bird-eaters. These
spiders are normally the size of a man's hand, and they're also
normally quite shy. But something has been flushing them out into the
open. Happy day.
This particular specimen was found in a public garden area wandering about. It's a whistling spider (
That's right. It whistles as a warning (as opposed to when they're
working). That whistle can be heard at two meters. Never thought that a
simple whistle could make me have to change my drawers.
And just for fun, here's another Australian arachnid. Behold
, a wolf spider. She sports a trendy two-tone look and feasts on human blood.
to be charmed, people. And if you're a lady, prepared to be wooed. He
may not look like much, especially when perched upon your fingertip,
but what he lacks in size he makes up for in style.
Say hello to the
UgO's latest inductee from Down Under. You'll find him festooned with
all sorts of colors--colors the ladies can't get enough of. Here he is,
courting one such lucky lady.
is what he looks like in his full courtship posture. Note the third set
of legs held high with pride. His abdomen is also looming, complete
with twin, colorful flaps fully deployed.
you haven't seen the best of it. Not only does he flash his colors
peacock-style, but he also does an irresistible dance, capering from
side to side and shaking those extended legs. What lady could possibly
Here's what his wee spider bum looks like from below when the flaps are extended. You looked, didn't you? You cheeky bum-looker.
I tell you what, if this spider were hamster-sized and good with children, it might be the most perfect pet ever.
Of Cartwheels and Mars
There are three known spiders that elect to roll down sand dunes as opposed to walk down. The palm-sized rolling Sahara spider (
) is one of them.
But this isn't just any roll. They don't tumble down the slope like we
used to when we were kids. That's too slow. No, this spider does it by
doing handsprings. Check out the spider in action. See? Cartwheels! Why
walk across the sand when you can do cartwheels? It does so by getting
a running start and then springing into the cartwheel, which allows it
to travel at around 5 mph. That's faster than the walking speed of your
know what my nightmares are going to be tonight. I'm stumbling across
the barren wastes of the Sahara, weak and delirious with thirst, the
sun a blistering orb overhead. But off in the distance, awash in a
shimmering heat wave, I see a snow cone stand, complete with every
flavor known to man. All I can do is stumble towards it. But then I
hear a skittering noise behind me. I turn to see spiders cartwheeling
towards me, and I can't outpace them. This face will be the last one I
a more scientific note, these spiders are of great interest to bionics
engineers such as Ingo Rechenberg of the Berlin Technical University,
who has researched this spider. The spider's means of ambulation might
just provide a possible new model for vehicles exploring the surface of
mars. Great. Bionic spiders on Mars. That'll be my next nightmare.
Spider in the Eaves
Monica's toddler looked out the open back door of their California
central valley house. He said, "hi itty pider!", which brought mommy to
investigate. She found this monster lurking in the eaves. Monica
gathered enough courage to get a dollar bill close enough for the photo
to give us a sense of its size.
know what type of spider this might be? Should Monica be afraid? Should
she not have revealed how much cash she had on hand to the spider?
Of Hydrophobicity and Ambulation
Here's today's buzz word:
the property of being water resistant. Some spiders, when placed on the
water's surface, simply get wet and sink. But many are hydrophobic to
some extent and can ambulate across the water's surface much like they
do on land. Still others, like those in the family Pisauridae, can row
across the water. But all spiders, when placed upon the surface of a
human soul, can devour it.
I'm guessing that this spider belongs to the family Lycosoidea. Anyone care to confirm or correct?
Jade, a proven arachnophile and experienced invert breeder, passed this
one along to us. These are images of a man handling the world's most
deadly spider: the Brazillian wandering spider (
makes them so deadly? What makes this handler insane? The Guinness Book
of World Records has listed this spider as the most venomous spider, as
they are believed to be the cause of the most deaths by envenomation
(great band name!) by a spider. Many people die swift and painful
deaths after run-ins with it.
Another reason why they are deadly
is found in their name: wandering (as opposed to 'Brazilian'). They
wander the jungle floor in an active hunt for food. Ergo, their contact
with humans. But despite all this, if you are bitten, don't write
yourself off. Only a third of their bites result in any envenomation,
and even then, only a third of the bites result in full envenomation.
I'd like to meet the man who can look down at his newly bitten foot and
actually console himself with those factoids as he lumbers through the
Here's My Web
I usually don't appreciate the efforts of spiders, save for when they rid my world of unwanted bugs. But I really do appreciate
the act, by some spiders, of weaving squiggles into their webs for the
purpose of making the web's presence known to creatures who might
accidentally pass through it. I wish the garden spiders currently
placing veils of webs across every pathway in my yard would use it. I
can't tell you how many mouthfulls of web I've had to contend with over
the past week.
This yellow garden spider (
has made her stabilimenta from silk. In fact, she looks to have gone
overboard. One study has revealed that spiders who employ stabilimenta
suffer a 34% reduction in the efficacy of their webs, though their webs
are far less likely to get knocked down. It's a trade off, you see.
It's kind of like how we humans will use orange safety cones or flares
or reflective vests to alert drivers to the presence of humans in
But not all stabilimenta are spun from silk.
Other spiders (the use of stabilimenta is considered by some to have
developed independantly among many different spider species) use egg
sacs or even detritus to warn passersby of the presence of their webs.
It's like how I use my body odor and constant barrage of not-so-funny
jokes to alert my coworkers of my presence.