this week, my career as an arachnophile reached new heights.  people are now bringing me spiders.  i got a text on easter morning from a friend coming over later, along the lines of ‘found a horrifying, slavering eight-legged monster in the bedroom, chewing on the last remains of the family dog.  should i bring it to you?’  well, what can you say to that except ‘hell yeah!’
so here she is – meet ‘night’ (or ‘knight’ if you ask the pebbles), christened by said friend’s toddler on the car ride over.

i don’t mind telling you, her ID led me a merry dance through the interweb and the pages of the forsters.  first i was happy calling her Miturga (a ‘prowling’ spider), because she closely matched an illustration in my nz spider bible.  but then i discovered some taxonomic upset about the Miturgidae and the earlier-featured Uliodon (which post i may have to revise shortly), so i did what i should have done first, which was to look at the eyes for some initial clues.

and bingo, that solved at least the family ID – Lycosidae for sure (‘wolf’ spiders), characterized by the front-most row of four small eyes, then the middle row of two large ones, then finally the back row of two more, posteriorly directed.  genus/species not so easy though… in fact, i think i have to leave it at ‘lycosid sp.’ unless someone really clever wants to chime in here and help me out.  i managed to find one other photo of what i think is the same species, but the page is a bit random and actually has no info about the photo.  sigh.

you will notice that night is busy having breakfast here.  this served two purposes – it only seemed fair to feed her after she spent the night in a jar (so balm for my conscience, i guess), plus it kept her obligingly still for her modeling session and gave me the chance to appreciate her bristly, kind of walrus-like face.
interestingly (spider fact of the week coming up!) i learned that the way i had always believed spiders to feed was incorrect – they don’t inject venom through the fangs, liquidizing the prey inside, and then suck the fluid back in through the fangs.  oops.  instead they pierce and/or crush it with the fangs, in addition to injecting venom, to soften it all up.  then they sort of lap/suck the fluids in through an actual mouth located behind the fangs, filtering the goo through two progressively fine sets of hairs along the way, which gets rid of the indigestible bits.  and this is exaclty what i observed with the fly i gave her; the forsters also describe it accurately thus (p. 82): ‘feeding begins while they prey is transfixed by the fangs.  depending on size it takes the spider 5 to 30 minutes to reduce an insect to the soggy little ball of indigestible crushed cuticle and wings that is dropped and left behind as its quest for further food continues.’  yes indeedy – no empty but recognizeable husk, just a tiny, slightly wet black ball of mashed fly bits.  yummy.
given her efficiency and good behavior, i liberated night under the house to take care of the many other tasty morsels i’m sure live down there.  i’ll let you know if she turns up for another visit.  ::::)

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