what day is it?  yes.  yes, it is.  and this is a one-photo edition — a photo that has been patiently waiting head-down in the middle of its web until tiny vibrations suggested that it was time to rush over here and jump out at you.  here it is:

my dad took this gorgeous shot in his back-yard in omaha.  she’s a species of Neoscona, possibly N. arabesca but more likely N. crucifera (also known in the past as N. hentzii) — a large, common orb-weaver, likely responsible for many of the large garden orb-webs people are most familiar with.  these webs are amazingly strong and sometimes trap rather large prey, but the spiders can handle it, and are apparently not only very good at repairing the damage (or recycling it), but also at utilizing very small prey.  i also learned from the famous forsters that orb-weavers can still construct their webs in outer space (see here and here — poor anita and arabella!), although it takes them a few tries to get used to it.  understandably.

we apparently have an occasional Neoscona species turn up in new zealand — N. orientalis, found all over australia and many other pacific islands.  the photo in the book is of a striking, fat-bodied spider with beautiful orange markings, apparently reaching 2cm in length (i want to see one!) but i can’t find much about this species online, so i wonder whether it has changed names.

look at those gorgeous bristles!  apparently their arrangement has taxonomic value, at least in males — see p. 497 of this article on Neoscona systematics.  i think i need a grad student to study spider taxonomy in nz.  anyone keen?  ::::)