Posts Tagged ‘Spiders’

Success By Learning: Smallest Predator Recognizes Prey By Its Shape

May 22, 2008

The Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus) is one of the world’s smallest mammals. It is about four centimetres long and weighs merely two grams. Being a nocturnal animal, it hunts predominantly with its sense of touch. Professor Michael Brecht (Bernstein Center for Computional Neuroscience, Berlin) now reported on the particularities of its hunting behaviour at the international conference “Development and function of somatosensation and pain” at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. “As quick as a flash, the Etruscan shrew scans its prey and adapts, when necessary, its hunting strategy,” explained Brecht in his talk. “Thus, no prey escapes.”

The smaller an animal is, the greater is its loss of warmth over its surface. To avoid starvation, the Etruscan shrew has to constantly compensate for this life-threatening energy loss. Thus, it consumes twice its weight every day and feeds on crickets, cockroaches, and spiders. Since the prey are nearly as big as their predator, the shrew has to attack fast and well directed.

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Biologists Names New Spider After Neil Young

May 12, 2008

An East Carolina University biologist has brought his admiration of Neil Young to a whole new class. Or species, to be exact.

Jason Bond, an ECU professor of biology, has named a newly discovered trapdoor spider, Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi, after the legendary rock star.

“There are rather strict rules about how you name new species,” Bond said. “As long as these rules are followed you can give a new species just about any name you please. With regards to Neil Young, I really enjoy his music and have had a great appreciation of him as an activist for peace and justice.”

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Female Jumping Spiders Find Ultraviolet B Rays ‘Sexy’

May 6, 2008

A report publishing online on May 1st in the journal Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press, provides the first evidence of an animal using ultraviolet B (UVB) rays to communicate with other members of its species.

In a series of mate choice experiments with the Chinese jumping spider (Phintella vittata), the researchers found that female spiders would rather mate with males that reflect UVB than those that do not.

” It has long been recognized that solar UVB has direct deleterious effects on a wide range of living organisms; for example, it can cause skin cancer and damage the retinal tissues of the eyes of mammals,” said Daiqin Li of National University of Singapore, who is also an Adjunct Professor in Hubei University, China. “Thus, it has generally been assumed that animals are unable to sense the presumably deleterious UVB wavelengths.”

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Burton, Michigan eyes ban on exotic animals

April 27, 2008

Alligators, venomous snakes and poisonous spiders aren’t welcome in the city, according to The Burton News’ Web site,

That’s the word from the city’s legislative committee, which held a special session Wednesday after receiving reports of an alligator in a DeCamp Street house. Committee members recommended adopting a proposed ordinance to ban keeping exotic or dangerous household pets.

If approved, the measure would require the city to give the owner of a banned animal 10 days to remove it from the home. The owner also could be required to show proof of where the animal was taken.

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Spider plague closes Australian hospital

April 24, 2008

A tiny Australian hospital is closing temporarily because of an infestation of poisonous spiders.

The Baralaba Multi Purpose Health Service will close for 24 hours starting Thursday morning so officials can fumigate the building to get rid of redback spiders that have been found in large numbers in the main part of the hospital.

Three or four patients will need to be moved to another hospital while the building is closed, according to a statement from Queensland state health officials.

Redback spiders, common throughout most of the country, have a painful bite and a toxic venom, although an anti-venom is available.

The statement said warm weather had caused more redback spider eggs to hatch than usual

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Mercury In River Moves Into Terrestrial Food Chain Through Spiders Fed To Baby Birds

April 18, 2008

Songbirds feeding near the contaminated South River are showing high levels of mercury, even though they aren’t eating food from the river itself, according to a paper published by William and Mary researchers in the journal Science.

Lead author Dan Cristol said his paper has wide-ranging international environmental implications. Mercury is one of the world’s most troublesome pollutants, especially in water. The South River, a major tributary of Virginia’s Shenandoah River, has been under a fish consumption advisory for years, as are some 3,000 other bodies of water in the U.S.

The paper shows high levels of mercury in birds feeding near, but not from, the South River. Cristol and his colleagues also identify the source of the pollutant—mercury-laden spiders eaten by the birds. The Science paper is one of the first, if not the first, to offer scientific documentation of the infiltration of mercury from a contaminated body of water into a purely terrestrial ecosystem.

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Animals in Space: From Research Rockets to the Space Shuttle

April 18, 2008

The animals that paved the way for Neil Armstrong and his cohorts have inspired a fresh take on the ubiquitous lost dog notice. Suzy Freeman-Greene revisits some walkies on the wild side.

One winter’s day, in December 1958, a fluffy squirrel monkey called Gordo was given a helmet and strapped onto a tiny rubber couch. Soon after, he was blasted into space in the nose of an American Jupiter missile. Gordo experienced nine minutes of weightlessness and is thought to have survived his capsule’s re-entry to earth. But the craft landed in the Atlantic Ocean and his body was never found.

Gordo was one of hundreds of animals sent into space from 1949 to 1990. In the name of science, monkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, rats, frogs, worms, fish, tortoises and even spiders have journeyed towards the stars. While plenty survived, many others died.

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A typographic tribute to animals lost in space research

April 15, 2008

Orbit Oblique is a typographic tribute to ‘animals lost in space’. “During the period 1949-1990 the space race between the USA and Russia saw dozens of animals being launched into space in the name of scientific research. These unwilling participants included not just monkeys and dogs but also cats, rats, frogs, worms, spiders, fish and even fruit flies. Many were never seen again.”

The exhibition features a series of backlit typographic billboards, the first public release of the typeface Bisque (whose exclusive usage rights were auctioned on ebay) and the publication that accompanies the exhibition sounds terrific: a limited edition hard-bound type sampler with letterpress printed covers.

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One of Orbit Oblique's billboards

Spider mom dies, spider kids have catfights

March 20, 2008


Battles to the death are taking place across Australia as sisters fight it out for the family home.

Dr Linda Rayor, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra, uncovered the gruesome family feuds while studying the tree-dwelling species of huntsman spider Delena cancerides.

Rayor, from Cornell University‘s Department of Entomology, says her study of D. cancerides has shown it is the only one of the 1039 known huntsman species that lives a social life with family members.

Among the world’s 40,000 known spider species only 1% are social with this species one of only two that does not spin a web.

Rayor believes the communal lifestyle has been thrust upon the spider by a lack of suitable accommodation in the wild.

In travels around remote Australia looking for the spider, Rayor has found the arachnid is in the midst of a housing crisis.

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