Tag Archives | Spiders

Skydiving spiders show off their gliding skills

By dropping spiders from tree tops, researchers are discovering how they maneuver their bodies in the air.

via New Scientist:

These jungle spiders free fall with style. After being dropped from the tops of trees, the spiders shown in this video are typically able to soar to the nearest tree trunk, providing the first evidence that spiders can glide.

Stephen Yanoviak from the University of Louisville in Kentucky and his colleagues filmed spiders of the genusSelenops as they were released from a height of 24 metres during tests at a research station in the Amazon rainforest in Peru.

Characterised by a flat body, which has earned them the nickname “flatties”, they quickly right themselves and get into a posture similar to that of skydivers. Then they head for a tree trunk more than 90 per cent of the time, travelling up to 5 metres horizontally while steering with their forelegs.

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40-foot-tall Communal Spider Web Found in Dallas

Spiders in a Dallas suburb have built a giant communal web. Photo by Texas A&M/Mike Merchant

Spiders in a Dallas suburb have built a giant communal web. Photo by Texas A&M/Mike Merchant

Apparently spiders sometimes join evil forces and build gigantic spider webs. Dallas commuters realized this on Friday, “having spotted the sheen of giant silk shawls draped over trees and shrubbery, and filled with hungry spiders.”

According to Brook Hays at UPI, “a massive web has been located in the North Texas neighborhood of Lakeside Park, stretching nearly the length of a football field and rising as high as 40 feet.”

40 feet. Football field length. Filled with spiders. Let’s take a moment to let this all sink in.

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Scientists Target New Painkillers From Spider Venom

Scientists may be excited about the prospect of a new class of painkillers derived from spider venom, but will Big Pharma go for them if they’re not highly addictive? From the Wall Street Journal:

Scientists in Australia, home to some of the most poisonous creatures on Earth, have made an important discovery about spider venom that eventually could lead to a new class of painkillers.

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The greenbottle blue tarantula (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens) is one of seven species of spiders whose venom Australian researchers found has potential painkilling properties. The creature is native to Venezuela and has some of the most dramatic coloring of any spider species.

Spiders use their venom to immobilize or kill their prey. Researchers from the University of Queensland isolated seven peptides—the building blocks of proteins—in spider venom that blocked the molecular pathway responsible for sending pain signals from the nerves to the brain. One peptide in particular, from a Borneo orange-fringed tarantula, had the right structure, stability and potency to potentially become a painkilling drug, the researchers said.

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Scarf and Vest Made with Silk From a Silkworm and Spider Combination

transgenic silk blouse

0.4 Percent Spider Silk, 99.6 Percent Silkworm Silk Yoshihiko Kuwana et al., PLOS One, 2014. CC BY 2.5

via Popsci:

This silk scarf and vest have a nice drape and pretty color, but that’s not why everyone here at Popular Science covets them. No, we’re wishing they were ours because they’re made of super-strong, transgenic spider silk. Functional and good-looking! Our favorite.

The clothes were woven from silk produced by silkworms with a spider gene engineered into them. A mix of spider and silkworm proteins actually emerges from the spinners in the silkworms’ mouths. The resulting hybrid material is made up of less than 1 percent spider proteins, yet it’s 53 percent tougher than regular silk, according to the research team, five scientists from Japan’s National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences and Shinshu University.

Scientists have long known spider-silk proteins are exceptionally strong. Dragline silk, the stuff spiders use to make the spokes of their webs and to dangle creepily from ceilings, is five times stronger than an equal-sized thread of steel would be.

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Nightmare Fuel: Chinese Doctor Removes Spider from Woman’s Ear Canal

Via Huffington Post:

I can’t hear you, there’s a spider in my ear!

The horrifying pictures were taken at China’s Changsha Central Hospital, after the patient checked in, complaining of itching inside her left ear.

Doctors were left with the challenge of extracting the spider while trying to ensure it would not burrow deeper or even bite the woman.

Read more at Huffington Post. Or don’t. I wouldn’t blame you.

 

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Male Spider Castrates Himself And Gets More Stamina

Writes Ed Yong on Discovery News:
To become both a lover and a fighter, the male spider Nephilengys malabarensis snaps off his penis inside his partner while they have sex. He becomes better at fending off other males who try to mate with her, because his now-lightened body can fight for longer without tiring. And while he’s playing the guardian, his detached genitals can continue pumping sperm into the female. Through self-castration, he gets more stamina, and he gets more stamina. I first wrote about the self-castrating spider a few months ago. Then, Daiqin Li from the National University of Singapore confirmed that the severed penis continues to pump sperm into the female. That allows the newly minted eunuch to fertilise her remotely, while also blocking the way to other males...
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Male Spiders Pay For Sex

Nursery Web SpiderVia PhysOrg:

Male nursery web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) prepare silk-wrapped gifts to give to potential mates. Most gifts contain insects, but some gifts are inedible plant seeds or empty exoskeletons left after the prey has already been eaten (presumably by the male himself!).

Males will also ‘play dead’ if a female moves away and then attempt to re-establish mating. New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology examines the reproductive success of deceitful males and shows that females are not impressed by worthless gifts.

Male spiders were provided with either a potential gift of a fly, or a worthless item, such as a cotton wool ball, a dry flower head, a prey leftover (previously eaten housefly), or no gift at all. All the gifts were approximately the same size, so the females would not be able to tell what the gift was without unwrapping it.

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The Horrifying ‘Spider Trees’ Of Pakistan

Ah, the wonders and surprises of Mother Nature. The 2010 floods in Pakistan caused an unexpected evolution in arachnoid behavior — to escape the rising waters, millions of spiders took to living in trees. The UK’s Department for International Development has an eye-popping Flickr gallery of what is now typical across Pakistan. The sticky, web-cocooned trees have proven extremely effective at catching pests and curbed the mosquito population. (The trees in the below picture are festooned with dead bugs.)

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