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Animals > If you don't like spiders, look away now

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message 1: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
This lovely jumping spider has been trained to jump between platforms so cameras can watch her techniques. She seems to be a smart and happy spider.

message 2: by Brian (new)

Brian Burt | 450 comments Mod
I'm not a complete arachnophobe... but this made me jump. ;-)

Still pretty cool to watch (as long as it's a recording)!

message 3: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
I'm glad you were able to watch!

message 4: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
A spider caught and wrapped up a tick... which then became preserved in amber.
At the bottom of this useful page are six more examples of resin fossils, like a spider attacking a wasp.

message 5: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
This is a particularly nice article on primitive ticks from 99 million years ago on dinosaur feathers - in amber.

message 6: by Clare (last edited Sep 22, 2018 04:34AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Since this thread has the warning, let's add a look at praying mantises. The science paper observed a quite spontaneous occurrence of a mantis catching and eating nine fish over five days. This has not previously been observed.

"The mantis devoured nine of the 40 fish in the pond over a five-day period, “showing the potential for a single invertebrate to have a strong impact on the fish community and, since guppies, like many other small fish, are active predators of aquatic insects, indirectly on the whole pond ecosystem,” the authors write. "

In the comments, there is an extraordinary clip of a mantis trying to catch a hummingbird. Only in the slowed down version can we be sure of what happens.

message 7: by Clare (last edited Oct 29, 2018 02:31AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Gizmodo kindly interviewed the author of a book on parasites that zombify insects and other animals, so I don't have to. Read if you dare.

Plight of the Living Dead: What Real-Life Zombies Reveal about Our World--And Ourselves
Plight of the Living Dead What Real-Life Zombies Reveal about Our World--And Ourselves by Matt Simon

message 8: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
An insect - looks like an earwig to me - has been preserved not in amber but in opal. Dinosaur bones have previously been found in opal too. This one is still undergoing tests.

message 9: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
More creatures in amber - the previously unknown mould pig from the Dominican Republic.

message 10: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
A cave dwelling harvestman... never known to science, sitting in a lava tube in Argentina.

message 11: by Candice (new)

Candice | 58 comments Mod
Clare wrote: "Gizmodo kindly interviewed the author of a book on parasites that zombify insects and other animals, so I don't have to. Read if you dare.

This book is amazing! Take the chance.


message 12: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
A new and startling widow spider has been discovered in South Africa.

message 13: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Back to dinos in amber: a preserved dino skull which seems to be a predatory insectivore the size of a hummingbird.

The Chilean bee hummingbird is the smallest warmblooded creature along with the Etruscan shrew and Kitti's hognosed bat.
But cold blooded creatures can be even smaller. This discovery may shed light on the coldblood/ warmblood debate.

More info on the debate can be found in
Why Elephants Have Big Ears: And Other Riddles from the Natural World

message 14: by Clare (last edited May 17, 2020 08:00AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
You may or may not be delighted to know (hence it's under this thread title) about a newly discovered fungus which is parasitic upon millipedes. Yes.

The fun story, however, is that it was first spotted in a photo posted on Twitter.

message 15: by Clare (last edited May 17, 2020 08:04AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Praying mantis attacks humming bird in this clip.

message 16: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Cicadas live underground as nymphs and suck sap from tree roots, then emerge as adults. Eggs are laid in cracks in branches and can cause twigs to split and break.
This is a cicada year in USA for the 17-year appearing variety.

You do need to turn the sound on for the short film!

message 17: by Clare (last edited Jul 01, 2020 05:17AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
More insects trapped in amber. These are recent finds from amber mines in Myanmar, and they have managed to include the colouring and iridescence of insects.

Here is the slightly more scientific version from the Royal Society.

message 18: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Because there were not enough trapdoor spiders.

""We compared their physical appearance and the burrows they construct, and then looked for molecular differences in their DNA," Dr. Wilson said. "We found differences in their physical appearance which allow them to be distinguished from other trapdoor spiders in eastern Australia."

Molecular differences confirmed that the researchers were dealing with an entirely new genus of trapdoor spider.

"The incredibly well hidden burrows they create were also different to other trapdoor spiders in eastern Australia, which is probably why this new group of spiders remained undiscovered in the past," Dr. Wilson said."

They live in Brisbane.

message 19: by Clare (last edited Oct 24, 2020 10:23AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Among the carnivores we find plenty of parasites. But not all are named or studied, apart from those which infest persons or livestock.
You've probably heard of fleas, which transmit diseases. But there are other parasites which live for stages in different hosts, as different as waterbirds and fishes.
Deep sea fish find food hard to come by, so some fish or arthropods latch onto any part of a larger fish and live on its leavings or blood.

Science is now studying which parasites thrive and which diminish as circumstances change.

"Traditionally, the field of disease ecology assumes one of two paths: That we are either heading toward a future of more disease and massive outbreaks or toward a future of parasite extinction. This paper shows that both trajectories are happening simultaneously, Wood explained.

"This particular experiment suggests that we need to anticipate both trajectories going forward. It starts to resolve the conflict in the literature by showing that everyone is right—it's all happening," Wood said. "The trick now is to figure out what traits will predict which parasites will decline and which will increase in response to biodiversity loss."

Wood's lab is working on that question now by reconstructing the history of parasites over time, documenting which parasites increased in abundance and which declined. However, there's almost no historical record of parasites and without this information, it's difficult to know how to conserve them. "

message 20: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
If you see a woodlouse and it's blue, apparently that means it has a virus.
And some scientists are interested.

message 21: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
The diabolical ironclad beetle can survive crushing, and science has been learning how this is accomplished. The secret can be used to make safer materials.

message 22: by Brian (new)

Brian Burt | 450 comments Mod
Clare wrote: "The diabolical ironclad beetle can survive crushing, and science has been learning how this is accomplished. The secret can be used to make safer materials."

Impressive! Where can I get my "diabolical ironclad armor"? ;-)

message 23: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Maybe if you play Dungeons and Dragons, it's an option!

message 24: by Clare (last edited Nov 01, 2020 02:30AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
The great fox-spider was thought extinct in Britain; no, it was just well camouflaged.

"The great fox-spider is listed as "critically endangered" and was feared to be extinct in the UK before it was rediscovered at a Ministry of Defence (MoD) training area in Surrey.

Previously it had not been seen since the early 1990s and had only ever been found at three sites in Dorset and Surrey.

Mike Waite, from the Surrey Wildlife Trust, said he was "over the moon" with the discovery.

He said: "This formidable-looking creature is an impressive beast, perfectly camouflaged and also largely nocturnal, and for all its size it has been remarkably elusive.""

message 25: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Arthropods - which means like insects but with more than six legs, so a millipede for instance - are really ancient. Here's an extremely well preserved fossil which sheds new light on how they evolved.

More information: An early Cambrian euarthropod with radiodont-like raptorial appendages, Nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2883-7 ,
Journal information: Nature

message 26: by Clare (last edited Nov 30, 2020 08:47AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
An insect which makes its own armour - this one is an ant.

"Hongjie Li, the lead author of the report published in Nature Communications, "became fascinated with the crystals" and discovered it was a biomineral layer that develops as the ants mature, increasing the hardness of their exoskeleton and covering nearly the entire body.

While researchers do not know for certain why the ants have this unusual armour, Currie told AFP they suspect it has a lot to do with the soldier ants of another species of fungus-growing ants, Atta cephalotes.

The two species will often engage in territorial "ant wars", which the researchers simulated in lab-based battles.

"When the Acro majors are without their armour the Atta soldiers quickly cut them into pieces, literally," Currie said.

"When they have their armour, they actually go from almost always losing the battles to almost always winning.""

More information: Biomineral armor in leaf-cutter ants, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19566-3 ,
Journal information: Nature Communications

message 27: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Newly discovered: a large oak beetle which had never been known to exist in Britain. Sadly (or not, if you are an oak) the beetle was almost 4,000 years dead.

""They're as big as a stag beetle," said the NHM's senior curator of insects, Max Barclay.

"As far as I know, the story is this: A farmer in eastern England was cutting up wood he'd found while doing some deep ploughing and discovered these insects inside; dead, of course. This was a huge piece of waterlogged oak, and he sent us a sample. I think, primarily, he was concerned the beetles were pests. My colleagues at the time said, 'well, they're not British', and so they were left.

"Today, you find this species halfway down France. You get it in Poland, Hungary and into Slovakia. And there are also old records from southern Germany.

"We recently had the opportunity with some American collaborators to actually date the wood and the beetles. This was really interesting. Because the beetles are inside the wood, you know they're the same age; and it's therefore a test of the dating techniques to show they get the same results whether it's plant material or animal material. It's a kind of Rosetta Stone moment."
The radiocarbon dating found the beetles and the oak to be 3,785 years old.

Back then, in what was the Bronze Age, we think these islands experienced relatively dry and warm conditions. We don't have thermometer records but many other similar "proxies" suggest this. The presence of the wood-chomping beetles probably speaks also to more forested times. East Anglia has since been cleared of nearly all its ancient woodlands."

message 28: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
More parasites trapped in amber - or rather, a scientific disagreement over bugs on feathers.

message 29: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
"Scientists at NUI Galway have spent a number of years examining the Noble False Widow spider.

They say most bites happen around the home, with the vast majority occurring when victims are in bed or have spiders trapped in their clothing.

The species originated in the Canary Islands and Madeira but has been spreading worldwide in the last two decades. In parts of Ireland and the UK, it is now one of the most common spiders found in urban settings.

Venomous bites are reportedly becoming more prevalent, with victims usually experiencing intense pain and swelling for a few days. In some cases, malaise and persistent stiffness in limbs is reported.

Last year, researchers discovered that 111 toxins, out of 140 found in the Noble False Widow spiders' venom, were common to those found in Black widows."

message 30: by Clare (last edited Jun 27, 2021 05:27AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
News to me...

"“I was surprised that snake-eating by spiders can be found on all continents (except Antarctica),” says study leader Martin Nyffeler, a spider expert at the University of Basel in Switzerland. “I was surprised that so many different spider groups are capable of killing and eating snakes. I was surprised that so many different snake species are occasionally killed by spiders.”

“All of this was unknown before,” says Nyffeler in an email.

In all, Nyffeler and his co-author, University of Georgia snake expert J. Whitfield Gibbons, scoured every piece of scientific literature they could find, as well as social media sites, news coverage, and even old issues of National Geographic, to unearth more than 300 observations of spiders killing snakes. The data encompassed more than 40 spider species and more than 90 snake species."

There's photos, folks. And a wriggly bit. Beware.

message 31: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
I am not going to look at the giant centipede videos embedded in the page, but the story itself is fine to look at, don't worry.

"Soon after we began our research on the ecology of Phillip Island's burrowing seabirds, we discovered chicks of black-winged petrels (Pterodroma nigripennis) were falling prey to the Phillip Island centipede.

We knew this needed further investigation, so we set out to unravel the mystery of this large arthropod's dietary habits.

To find out what these centipedes were eating, we studied their feeding activities at night and recorded the prey species they were targeting. We also monitored petrel chicks in their burrow nests every few days, for months at a time.

We eventually began to see consistent injury patterns among chicks that were killed. We even witnessed one centipede attacking and eating a chick.

From the rates of predation we observed, we calculated that the Phillip Island centipede population can kill and eat between 2,109 and 3,724 petrel chicks each year. The black-winged petrels—of which there are up to 19,000 breeding pairs on the island—appear to be resilient to this level of predation.

"Up until just a few decades ago the Phillip Island Centipede was very rare. In fact, it was only formally described as a species in 1984.

After an intensive search in 1980, only a few small individuals were found. The species's rarity back then was most likely due to severely degraded habitats caused by pigs, goats and rabbits introduced by humans to the island.

The removal of these invasive pests enabled black-winged petrels to colonize. Their population has since exploded and they're now the most abundant of the 13 seabird species that breed on Phillip Island.
They provide a high-quality food source for the Phillip Island centipede and have therefore likely helped centipede population to recover."

Journal information: American Naturalist
Provided by The Conversation

message 32: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Tardigrades as fossils trapped in amber. As these are so tiny, they are seldom found, and with no minerals they don't fossilise otherwise. Interesting micro-images though.

" Historically there is a bias towards larger inclusions in amber as inclusions as small as tardigrades are hard to see and require extremely good observational skills, as well as some specialist knowledge.

"Scientists know where tardigrades broadly fit in the tree of life, that they are related to arthropods, and that they have a deep origin during the Cambrian Explosion. The problem is that we have this extremely lonely phylum with only three named fossils. Most of the fossils from this phylum are found in amber but, because they're small, even if they are preserved it may be really difficult to see them," Ortega-Hernández said.

Mapalo agreed, "If you look at the external morphology of tardigrades, you might assume that there are no changes that occurred within the body of tardigrades. However, using confocal laser microscopy to visualize the internal morphology, we saw characters that are not observed in extent species but are observed in the fossils. This helps us understand what changes in the body occurred across millions of years. Furthermore, this suggests that even if tardigrades may be the same externally, some changes are occurring internally."

Mapalo and Ortega-Hernández continue to employ confocal laser microscopy technology to study other tardigrades in amber in their hopes to expand the tardigrade fossil record."

More information: A tardigrade in Dominican amber, Proceedings of the Royal Society B (2021). rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2021.1760
Journal information: Proceedings of the Royal Society B
Provided by Harvard University

message 33: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
Long, wriggly, many legs. Don't look if a harmless millipede with over 1000 legs would seem scary.

"The record-setting species was discovered 60 metres underground in a drill hole in a mining area in Western Australia and has been dubbed Eumillipes persephone."

More information: Paul Marek, The first true millipede—1306 legs long, Scientific Reports (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-02447-0.
Journal information: Scientific Reports

message 34: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
A handsome tarantula, newly discovered, nests inside bamboo.

message 35: by Carolyn (last edited Jan 16, 2022 06:35AM) (new)

Carolyn Wilhelm (wilhcarm) | 16 comments Oh, and I was starting to think bamboo was part of the answer - clothing, paper products, fabric. Thanks for some more information.

message 36: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
As long as we don't import the spider with the bamboo, I guess it's okay. This does not seem to be common so I would hope the spider can still find enough homes. Note that other wildlife activity or damage has to happen for it to get into the stem.

message 37: by Clare (last edited Oct 31, 2022 05:07AM) (new)

Clare O'Beara | 6634 comments Mod
More creatures discovered in amber. This is a snail which has a hairy shell.

""This is already the sixth species of hairy-shelled Cyclophoridae, a group of tropical land snails found so far, embedded in Mesozoic amber, about 99 million years old," explains Dr. Adrienne Jochum from the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt and the Natural History Museum in Bern. Dr. Jochum explains that "It is not uncommon for the shells of fossil and present-day land snails to be embellished with ridges, hairs, nodules, or folds; however, the development of such 'decoration' is still a complex process that usually does not occur without a purpose.""

More information: Jean-Michel Bichain et al, Archaeocyclotus brevivillosus sp. nov., a new cyclophorid land snail (Gastropoda: Cyclophoroidea) from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber, Cretaceous Research (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105359
Journal information: Cretaceous Research
Provided by Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum

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