Tag Archive: webnesday


i’ve been saving this one since september, partly waiting for the right moment and partly because i find i still have mixed feelings about it…
i bought a dead spider.
i normally give dead arthropod curios a wide berth, because i don’t know where they came from, and i don’t like the idea of collecting bugs just to stick in resin so someone can look at them on a shelf and go ‘oooooh.’  (or ‘eeeew.’)  but in a moment of weakness at the camden markets (induced by hunger and the unbelievable throng of other people milling around), i ducked into a stall full of many-leggers encased in all manner of resins.  there were tiny scorpion cell-phone charms, large hairy spiders flattened and framed, curled centipedes inside necklace pendants, brilliant iridescent beetles inside heavy paperweights.  part of me couldn’t help going ‘oooooh’ (and yes, i appreciate the irony), but i planned to get out empty-handed as i edged along a row of necklaces toward the shop entrance.  the shop assistant approached me and asked if i were looking for anything in particular, and i mumbled in what i hoped were fairly unintelligible tones that i didn’t see any spider necklaces, so i’d just be on my way…
semi-unfortunately, the guy had eagle ears and brightened immediately.  ‘wait right there,’ he said.  thinking myself immune to the (snort) charms of encapsulated spiders, but a little curious, i did wait to see what he had in mind.
and there she was.

i had never seen anything like her.  and i was smitten.
luckily for my conscience, it appears that Gasteracantha cancriformis is a common enough beastie and rather widely distributed, although it is not, in fact, found in china (where he thought it came from).  i know it could easily have turned out that this was something rare, and i certainly don’t intend to make a habit of it.  but… look at the amazing spines (hence the common name ‘thorny orb-weaver’ or ‘spiny-backed orb-weaver’).  she’s so beautiful.  and i promise to take good care of her and use her to further the cause of spider-kind whenever she attracts attention.
swoon.

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just to ease back into this (especially considering it’s not even the right day… is there such a thing as ‘ship-lag’?), i’ll kick off with some new photos of an old friend, Trite planiceps.  i know we’ve had this one before, most recently in august, but (a) it’s a jumping spider and you can never have too many of those; (b) this one just walked right up to me a few minutes ago and begged to be photographed, and (c) the results were good.  voila!

webnesday, episode 38 ('hey, remember me?' edition)

webnesday, episode 38 ('hey, remember me?' edition)

webnesday, episode 38 ('hey, remember me?' edition)

spider friends, in honor of hallowe’en this week (well… our hallowe’en party is tonight since i’ll be away next week), i bring you a truly freaky spider.  in fact, i consider this possibly the most creepy spider i’ve ever seen.  (and alas, like most of the really cool exotics, i haven’t actually seen it myself, so i’m borrowing someone else’s photo again – and the credit was extremely difficult to find, so if anyone knows of updated copyright info, please let me know.)
this is an assassin spider, family archaeidae.

when i first saw it, i couldn’t even figure out what i was looking at.  this explanation at national geographic helps.  (it’s also upside down.)  doesn’t it just look… wrong somehow?  it’s not even the fact that it hunts other spiders, or the hapless little victim clutched in its ridiculously long jaws.  i think it’s actually the neck that bothers me, maybe that and what looks like a forward-facing pair of eyes, giving it a disturbingly un-spider-like appearance.  it’s like a gut-wrenching spider-bird hybrid monster.
for further nightmates, check out this animation, one interpretation of how the archaeid may hunt and feed.  on a related page (warning, more seriously creepy-looking bugs) there are lots more photos.  and here’s a really old one preserved in amber.
not a huge amount is known about these guys, and i certainly can’t add anything.  there seems to be consensus that the elongated ‘neck’ region of the cephalothorax is what gives them the height and leverage to support those jaws, so they can kill other spiders without being in range of the prey’s own jaws.  (mm, macabre.)  but from what’s been reported so far, they only appear to reach a few millimeters in length (but what about the height? … eek), so at least if you came across one and weren’t specifically out to see it, you probably wouldn’t notice.  see, there’s a silver lining. ;)
oh, and the other silver lining, if you really hate spiders (and aren’t just squicked out by this one), is that webnesday will be on hold now for six weeks while i’m at sea.

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hi.  hi!  i wasn’t very good with webnesday while i was away.  but i’m back home now (briefly, more details to follow), and the world of spiders certainly hasn’t stood still for me in the meantime.  when i had time to look, i did find them in th uk, sometimes obvious against their surroundings (as in the previous edition), sometimes more subtle, like this.

the resident population back in auckland have been busy too – the rising sun on my very first morning back caught this lovely night’s work.

and some very cool stuff has been in the news – did you hear about the spider silk tapestry?  or that a spider has been found that’s largely vegetarian?  (there’s another article on the latter here.)
before i wander off and start rallying material for a particularly good edition next week, i want to highlight a couple of gorgeous specimens that tomboy has encountered recently in australia – three lovely orb-weavers, one with golden thread, one with spectacular coloration and one with yellow knees – plus a nice huntsman.  sigh, time to visit australia again i think!

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oh, hi.  did you want spiders?  sorry.  i’ve actually been collecting pics for over a week with plans to sneak in a belated edition back where it belongs, but instead i’ll just line them up here.  afraid i am short on taxonomic info again this week (slack, i know!) but since there are several species involved, we’ll just cover them all under the family heading Araneidae (orb-weavers) and be done with it.  these fat-bodied beauties are hanging in the centers of large webs everywhere i’ve been in england so far – the ones below were sighted in oxford, dover, and along regent’s canal in london.

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sadly i have not come across any interesting arañas yet, so for the moment i’ll point you to a photo of a rather large Nephila that the pebbles alerted me to on reddit (cropped below).  can’t vouch for the comments at all but the spider is gorgeous!

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so this week i was in the air for webnesday, but i give you this beautiful image courtsey of my friend clem.  i have no idea what they are or what they’re doing (feeding?  mating?  imminent cannibalism?) … but they sure are purty.  :)

update: clem says ‘i’m reasonably sure that we’re looking at Neriene radiata (walckenaer, 1842), the filmy dome spider, and, per the observation of my knowledgeable friend tom, we’re almost certainly seeing the smaller male using his pedipalps to transfer sperm to the female.’  excellent.

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webnesday, episode 32 (bigger & better edition)
today is a slightly unorthodox edition – we’re revisiting Trite planiceps, a species already featured here once, but since the available technology is much improved in the meantime, and since the specimen i found crawling up the curtains yesterday was so particularly fine, i think it’s worth it.
this salticid is apparently often encountered in nz homes, although its more natural habitat is rolled-up flax leaves.  several studies have been conducted on T. planiceps, concluding that it can hunt non-visually (unusual for a jumping spider) and that individuals may pick up pheromone cues from silk spun by members of the opposite sex.personally, i like T. planiceps for several reasons – it’s quite distinctive, with its dark cephalothorax and grunty front legs; it seems to be a fairly calm salticid, making recording it easier than it is in some other subjects; and it obligingly takes offered prey, although it seemed to lose interest quickly in the unfortunate amphipod i sacrificed.

webnesday, episode 32 (bigger & better edition)

the wikipedia article is actually pretty informative for this species, so i’ll let you do your own further reading if you choose and just offer a few more nice things to look at.  :)

webnesday, episode 32 (bigger & better edition)

webnesday, episode 32 (bigger & better edition)

new zealand has one protected spider species – the nelson cave spider (with the beautiful binomial Spelungula cavernicola, family Gradungulidae).  as the name suggests, it dwells in limestone caves in the north-central south island, where it feeds on cave weta (Gymnplectron spp.) by descending on them from above and hoisting them off the ground/wall to hang in midair, where they cannot escape.  with its 15cm-legspan, Spelungula is one of our largest spiders, yet remarkably little is known about it – i could only find two pages with any information (from te papa and arkive), and one source of photos, so these beautiful images are courtesy of ryan photographic.  apparently a master’s thesis was undertaken on the nelson cave spider in the mid-1990s, but never published.
Spelungula appears to be a long-lived species, with a lifespan of perhaps five years.  it also reproduces slowly, creating a large, spherical egg sac that hangs from the cave ceiling by silken threads.  with the estimated population of mature individuals being less than 250, it’s no wonder this species is currently believed to be critically endangered.  and… that really does appear to be all that’s known (or hypothesized).  i have a strange urge to go caving in nelson…

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i realized recently that my spider enthusiasm ranges far beyond its once-a-week airing here.  without really meaning to, i’ve managed to acquire a closet (and in some cases, wall) full of arachnophile gear.  so while i try to work out the rights to some photos of interesting species for next week, i’ll suggest this article on uloborids crushing their prey with their own silk, and use this space to spotlight some of my favorite spidery accoutrements.  sadly, i cannot find my spider hoodie at the moment, and at least two pairs of socks are missing, but here are two more.

then there are the pajama pants.  (the black-and-orange theme is a common one, since hallowe’en is one of the better times for stocking up on spider gear.)  they should really have eight legs, but you can’t have everything.

smaller spiders can also be found in several more subtle accessories.

and finally, probably the crowning piece in my spider collection, is this beautiful handmade quilt.  it was a wedding present from one of my best friends, made by her aunt-in-law, and i had admired it on the wall of her house for years.  even got inspired to try making my own, which is languishing, half finished, in the sewing machine cabinet.  this quilt is amazing, not only for its vibrant colors and gorgeous design (and the fact that it was hand-carried to new zealand!), but also for the fact that my friend’s aunt one day found a real spider crawling across it, which she commemorated with the silver brooch that now marks the spot.

so there you go, i talk the spider talk and walk the eight-footed spider walk.  next week, we’ll be back to the real deal.

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