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Scientists Mourn as Oldest Known Living Spider Dies at Age 43
If you were to research the age limit of trapdoor spiders, you would most likely find the general consensus amongst the scientific community to be around 20 years maximum. However, there is one trapdoor spider in Australia that blew all that knowledge to pieces when she lived far past the age of 20 and all the way into her 40s. Sadly, however, this record-breaking spider has finally passed away and is on her way to meet her maker. But, she made it all the way to the ripe old age of 43, and could have possibly lived longer had she not been stung by a wasp. Still, she broke the record for the longest observed living spider, so that is certainly an achievement to be proud of, especially coming from such a tiny creature.
The female trapdoor spider, named Number 16, was part of a long-term population study of trapdoor spiders that was started in 1974 by Barbara York Main, an Australian arachnologist. York Main tagged number 16’s burrow during her initial survey in 1974. Number 16’s burrow was tagged as the burrow of a young spiderling and the 16th burrow they had come across, hence the spider’s imaginative name. York Main managed to tag 150 burrows by 2016, but the other 15 spiders first discovered with Number 16 have all since passed, along with many other spiders tagged during the intervening years. This incredible study helped scientists discover that the long life span of trapdoor spiders has a lot to do with the traits of their life-history. A big part of this is their habitat, living in the largely untouched native bushland of Australia, their sedentary lifestyle, as well as their low metabolism.
Number 16, with her much longer than average lifespan, helped researchers learn more and investigate further this spider’s overall behavior and the dynamics of their population. Her long lifespan may actually change how these scientists even go about researching the creatures. Researchers discovered Number 16’s burrow with a puncture in it from a parasitic wasp on October 30, 2016. With the burrow having fallen into a state of disrepair, the researchers realized that Number 16 was either dead or had been infected by a spider wasp and turned into what amounts to a nurse zombie to take care of the wasps little egg until it hatches and eats poor Number 16. Thus, a sad end comes to a remarkable little spider.
How old do you think Number 16 could have lived if she hadn’t been killed by the parasitic wasp and simply died of old age?
Spiders Secret Love For Pollen
Insects aren’t the only things that get trapped in a spiders’ web. In addition to snaring insect prey, they also catch aerial plankton such as pollen. Everyone knows that spiders are purely carnivorous, eating flies, crickets, and other tasty insects by the droves. So, this extra debris must just be discarded by spiders in favor of the tasty insects also caught in their web. Right? Maybe not.
A recent study found that spiders actually might have a more diverse appetite than we previously believed. Dr. Dirk Sanders with the University of Exeter proved that spiders might not be the absolute predators that we generally believe they are. His study found that some spiders also like a bit of pollen with their insects, with pollen making up a quarter of some spider’s diets. This means that spiders aren’t carnivores, but rather omnivores. Sounds like something from an alternate universe, right?
Dr. Sanders found during his study that orb web spiders (just the common garden variety) don’t just eat pollen along with the insects they catch, but even choose to eat pollen specifically even if insects are available to munch on. The study involved Dr. Sanders and his colleague Mr. Benjamin Eggs from the University of Bern performing numerous feeding experiments on juvenile spiders to find out whether they included plant-based nutrition in their diet.
They concluded that a whole 25 percent of the nutrients they consume is pollen, leaving 75 percent that was made up of various flying insects. The combination of the two gave them all of the essential nutrients they needed, with the spiders that ate both getting optimal nourishment through this mixed diet as opposed to a purely carnivorous one. Scientists already knew that orb web spiders eat their webs when they take them down in order to recycle the silk proteins, and had suggested that it is during this process that they accidentally eat the pollen. However, this was proved to be impossible because of the large size of the grains of pollen, signifying they actively consume them. The significant part of their diet that pollen makes up (25%) also proves that it is not simply consumed by accident, but is in fact a regular part of their diet.
Apparently spiders are omnivores…who knew?
Did you think spiders were solely carnivorous? Can you think of any other seemingly-carnivorous insect predator that also consumes plant material along with their diet of other insects?
Doctor Defeats Arachnophobia By Studying Spiders Up Close
Doctor Fiona Cross used to run away from daddy long-legs screaming in fright, but decided to fight her fear rather than let it get the best of her. While she started out studying psychology, Doctor Cross ended up switching to zoology and becoming an aracnologist after deciding to join a study about Kenyan jumping spiders. She never thought she would actually be interested in a creature with such a small brain, but learned quickly that size doesn’t always matter when it comes to arachnids. “I became fascinated with the way spiders could perform tasks normally associated with larger-brained animals, such as making plans, and deceiving their prey,” she said. Cross turned what was a horrible fear into a reasonably healthy obsession (she is, after all, still studying spiders). That obsession led her twenty years later to complete her doctorate studies with an intense look into mosquito-eating jumping spiders.
Cross jumped at the chance to these study jumping spiders in Kenya in 2006, and has since then made nine trips lasting around 6 months each to Kenya to feed her obsession. One of her more important discoveries was that these mosquito-eating spiders prefer their meals to be of the kind that spread Malaria. Her mother suffered from the disease during her childhood in Africa, making it a particularly interesting find for Cross to make. She now also enjoys taking other young women spider hunting with her, and sharing her love of spiders with them. Cross found that sharing this knowledge about spiders and educating more women about this often misunderstood creature was quite liberating for all involved. “They have told me afterwards that this [spider hunting] was so liberating, because women aren’t supposed to be interested in spiders,” she said.
Now, when Cross is asked which of these Kenyan jumping spiders is her favorite she quickly points to the Portia Africana. This is one of the small jumping spiders actually discovered by Cross and a colleague of hers during their research in Kenya. She insists that they are quite cute, and look like teddy bears up close…everyone is aloud to have their own opinion after all…
Have you ever turned a fear into a strength by confronting it? Do you think this little spider looks cute or like a teddy bear, or is this a case of colored perspective?
Video of Aussies Saving Gigantic Spider From Certain Death Shocks and Befuddles the Rest of the World
Australians seem to have a soft side for arachnids that the rest of the world just can’t understand. A video showing an Australian woman saving a giant spider from getting swept away by a fierce current during a flood was posted on the web that has sparked commentary and confusion from the rest of the planet.
The community that Andrea Gofton lived in was experiencing some of the worst floods in almost a decade. Almost 20 inches has fallen just since the beginning of March. Everything is flooded, from homes and roads to whole towns being declared disaster areas. Thankfully, however, the drenched citizens have for the most part escaped the disaster unscathed.
That’s only considering the humans that live there, though. The poor animals inhabiting the area weren’t so lucky. Dens, burrows, and other animal homes were completely flooded and the animals didn’t exactly get much help from the human government, leaving many without a home. On top of that all of their food sources are buried under raging waters where water predators, including crocodiles, sharks, and snakes are starting to explore these new rivers to see what unsuspecting prey they can find.
Amidst this crazy flooding and all the chaos surrounding it Gofton came across an absolutely massive spider, literally a huge tarantula named the bird-eating spider that has huge venomous fangs, clinging desperately to a tree branch hanging over raging flood waters, trying to keep from joining the other animals that were swept away by the water. Gofton couldn’t simply leave the poor giant spider in such danger. She had to try and rescue it. This is where the viral video comes in. Gofton taped her daring rescue of the spider and posted it on the internet. You can see her first put her hand near the spider in the hopes it will jump on. When that doesn’t work she snaps off the branch the spider is clinging to and carried it to an avocado tree close by and set it free. Of course, the rest of the world has a bit of a different reaction when they see this brave act of heroism. The general response to watching it comes in the form of screaming at Gofton on the video to “kill it with fire” or some other shriek of terror.
Have you seen this video of the giant spider being saved by Gofton? What would do in that situation?
Scientists Make Spider Silk Sculptures With the Help of Lasers
We’ve all been hearing about the amazing things scientists have figured out how to make using spider silk such as fabric stronger than Kevlar, but yet another incredible use for spider silk has recently been discovered. Physicist Kamal Singh of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Mohali, India found a way to make dazzling sculptures out of spider silk using a femtosecond laser. He has created shapes such as twisted chains, coiled springs, and silk loops that any normal spider could never produce on their own. Singh and his colleagues even built a Mobius strip, which is a one-sided twisted cylinder. Not only can he make the silk into sculptures, but he has also found a way to attach the silk to other materials such as glass and metal. His hope is that this new technique could have uses other than simply being beautiful such as possibly creating new bandages for wounds or burns. His technique could literally change the world.
Singh gets his silk from the thousands of spiders that live in his garden. To procure the material he first coaxes a spider onto a stick and then gives it a quick jerk. When the spider jumps off it leaves behind a perfect line of spider silk. The next step is to use his special femtosecond laser to tailor the silk into new shapes. This laser sends out powerful pulses of light that only last a mere femtoseconds, with each femtosecond comprised of 0.000000000000001 of a second, so there are a thousand trillion of these femtoseconds in one second. With this laser he can make extremely precise cuts, as well as remove sections of silk and even attach it to other materials.
It took a great deal of experimenting to even discover the possibilities of using lasers on silk. Singh was initially studying the strength of spider silk, twisting and stretching spider silk with the aid of his students to see when it would finally break. After 10 days of constantly stretching the silk for 10 hours at a time, the silk still didn’t break, so this got Singh thinking of how one might go about cutting silk. To make the precise cuts he wanted, Singh knew he couldn’t use conventional tools like scissors, and this led him to finally get a femtosecond laser, which proved to be the perfect tool. The laser was able to deliver a powerful burst of energy onto a very small area, and the pulses were short enough that they also wouldn’t destroy the silk. From that point on history was made. The versatility of spider silk continues to amaze scientists.
What other possible uses could we have for sculpting spider silk and attaching it to other materials? What would you use it to make?
It’s the time of year when spiders are on the hunt for a warm, secluded place to build a web and catch their next meal. Certified Termite & Pest warns that basements, attics and garages serve as the perfect refuge for these creepy crawlers and encourages homeowners to take proper precautions to avoid being spooked by them this fall.
With nearly 3,000 spider species found in North America, alone, it’s no surprise that homeowners occasionally encounter spiders in their abodes, especially as the colder weather forces them to seek shelter indoor. While most spiders are harmless, Texas is home to Brown Recluses, and Black Widows, which can pack a mean and venomous bite. Pest-proofing the home is key to preventing a startling encounter with these wily critters.
Certified Termite and Pest Control recommends the following spider control tips:
One Tarantula That Can Actually Kill You
For the most part tarantulas may look scary, what with their large size, hairy body, and just general terrifying-ness. But most of them are pretty harmless to humans. Many people even like to have them as pets. There is one tarantula out there, though, that is just as dangerous as it looks and packs one heck of a mean bite. It goes by many names, such as the Indian ornamental tree spider, the regal parachute spider, or the fringed ornamental spider, because I guess scientists simply can’t decide what to call this giant, hairy monster. But to make things a bit simpler, I would just stay away from any tarantula species with the Latin name Poecilotheria. It might just save your life.
The true irony lies in its extreme popularity as a pet for those spider lovers out there. For a tarantula, the Poecilotheria is quite a striking and beautiful arachnid. They can have a leg span of up to 6 inches, and are covered in brilliant blue, yellow, white, and brown markings. It also happens to be one of the most dangerous and venomous spiders on Earth.
One poor man discovered this the hard way after being bitten by one of his nine pet spiders. Now, it’s pretty unlikely that a tarantula will bite a person at all. First of all, their fangs point downward, which means they need to get right up close and personal on top of your finger or other body part in order to sink their fangs into you. Most dangerous spiders have more pincer-like fangs, which gives them a bit more room and agility to bite you. Tarantulas also will only bite someone if they are severely provoked. Basically, you have to stick your finger right in its mouth, causing them to mistake your digit for any other regular prey.
Most tarantula bites aren’t any worse than being stung by a bee. When the man was first bitten by his pet spider he didn’t really think much of it, as it was just slightly red with a bit of swelling and pretty much painless. Fast forward two hours and he began sweating and having hot flashes. After 15 hours he was experiencing such severe muscle cramps that he had to go to the hospital. Soon after came the chest pains. Thankfully, the doctors at the hospital were able to save his life and treat the excruciating symptoms. But that bite didn’t just let him go that easily. He still had to deal with painful muscle cramps for the next three weeks.
Do you or someone you know have a pet tarantula? Have you or they ever been bitten?
Are Brazilian Wandering Spiders Really As Dangerous As The Experts Claim?
Brazilian wandering spiders, or banana spiders as they are also known, have become notorious the world over for their “deadly” bites. The wandering spiders are members of the Phoneutria family. The term “Phoneutria” means “murderess” in Greek, and this does not do much to dispel the myth that wandering spiders are the most dangerous spiders in the world. However, many reputable researchers agree that the wandering spider is, indeed, one of the most venomous spiders on earth, but there are many other eight-legged contenders for this title.
These days, with the advanced antivenoms that are available in any medical facility, deaths resulting from a bite sustained by a wandering spider are extremely rare. The Guinness Book of World Records has named the Brazilian wandering spider as the most venomous spider on earth.
However, according to an arachnologist, Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal, it can be tricky classifying a single spider as the most “deadly”. Just because a spider may be the most venomous of all spiders, this does not mean that it can cause death, or even penetrate human skin for that matter. Classifying a spider as being the most venomous also causes problems in the scientific community. For example, the amount of damage sustained as a result of being injected with spider venom depends on how much venom actually makes it into the bite-victims bloodstream. Also, much of what researchers do know about wandering spider venom, and its effects, depends almost entirely on how rats responded to wandering spider venom during experiments. Naturally, since rats are much smaller than humans, these rat-based experiments still do not tell us much about how venomous the Brazilian wandering spider is relative to other spiders that inject venom into their prey. So if you do encounter a Brazilian wandering spider, then you will certainly want to leave it alone, and be cautious, but not afraid.
Have you ever know someone to have sustained a bite from a Brazilian wandering spider?
When traveling to the south of the border into Mexico, you may want to avoid exploring any and all abandoned mine shafts. These dark and dank locations seem to be hotbeds for giant spiders that do not appear to be of this world. One such spider was recently discovered in a mineshaft that was located in Baja California Sur. The spider has been labeled as a wandering spider, and it is sporting to red fangs that would give anybody a jolt.
The spider has been officially named the Califorctenus cacachilensis, and it seems to be a relative of the aggressive and highly venomous Brazilian Wandering Spider. A bite from a Brazilian Wandering Spider (BWS) can cause painfully long erections that can last hours in male bite victims. Luckily for the researchers that stumbled upon this relative of the BWS, this new spider does not possess venom that causes such nightmarish symptoms. The spider is, however, extremely venomous, so you still want to avoid a bite from one of these monsters at all costs. However, one researcher did sustain a bite from the newfound spider, and apparently, he did not need medical attention, but you still would not want to keep one of these hairy eight-legged creatures as a pet.
This newly discovered spider is unofficially known as the Sierra Cacachilas Spider. These spiders belong to a family of aggressive spiders that contain five hundred different types. When these “cave” spiders find a suitable prey, these spiders will chase them down until they are too tired to continue, and that is when this cave spider happily consumes its well-earned meal.
The first hint that this giant spider existed was left in the form of an exoskeleton that the Cacachilas spider shed long ago. The sheddings were discovered in 2013, and once researchers laid their eyes on its sheer size, they knew that they were dealing with a whole new species of spider. The spider is currently undergoing tests that are aimed at gaining a better understanding of this mysterious spider’s nature.
Have you ever spotted a big tarantula while exploring in the desert?