Monday, 30 November 2015

Two-tailed Spider

Image: Chun Xing Wong
It's a spider with two tails!

Because the world was in need of just that little bit more spider.

Image: Harshjeet Singh Bal
Two-tailed Spiders are some 150 species belonging to the Hersiliidae family. They're found predominantly in the southern hemisphere though a few species extend to warm parts of North America, Europe and Asia.

I suppose they're named after Hersilia, a Roman goddess who was married to Romulus and became a kind of goddess of courage. What that has to do with a spider with tails, I have no idea. Maybe she was just languishing on the list of god and goddess names that hadn't been used yet. Or maybe whoever named them was terrified of spiders and was in the habit of calling her name in times of strife and it just sort of... stuck?

Image: Chun Xing Wong
Two-tailed Spiders certainly look like one of the more alien spiders out there, with their somewhat heart-shaped bodies and long, sprawling legs. Actually, only six of their legs are particularly long. In some peculiar quirk, two of their legs are actually rather stubby. We all need a schtick, right? Or perhaps the tail took up some of their "long, thin, sticky-out bit" quota. It's the madness of bureaucracy. I myself have been trying to grow a tail for years. The number of forms you have to fill out is ludicrous.

Having said that, Two-tailed Spiders are quite small, reaching at most 2cm (0.8 in) in body length. Though that doubles when you add the tails. Or should I say the "so-called tails". They're actually spinnerets. All spiders have spinnerets, they're the organs that produce spider silk and we all know how much spiders love their silk. I myself have been trying to acquire some silk from a spider and her prices are ludicrous. Still, few spiders have spinnerets as remarkably long as the Two-tailed Spider. That's why they're also known as Longspinneret Spiders.

Image: Mario Madrona
Despite all that, Two-tailed Spiders are hardly the master craftsmen of web design. They simply use their camouflage to hang around on tree trunks with strands of silk beneath their feet and extending some way across the bark (that's why they're also known as Tree Trunk Spiders). When the pitter-patter of tiny feet alerts them to the presence of an insect, they quickly move into action.

Video: SixLegTv

She turns around so that her spinnerets face her prey, then she runs around it in a circle over and over again, shrouding the poor blighter in layers of silk as she goes. Once it's immobilised, she can apply a venomous bite and feed.

Eh... should've known it wasn't made for wagging.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Mr. Pinch

I miss Mr. Tickle.


Wednesday, 25 November 2015


Image: Moorea Biocode
It's a worm! With a face made of worms!

No? A tentacle with two tentacles? Two worms sharing an enormous tentacle?

Image: Malcolm Storey
Oh, of course! It's a worm with two tentacles sticking out of its face. I knew we'd get there in the end.

Spionidae is a family containing several hundred species of these tentacle-faced polychaete worms. Most of them live in sandy or muddy sediment of marine waters across the world, from the intertidal zone to the deep sea. A few make it in brackish or even fresh water.

Video: a18sccr

Many of them simply crawl about in the sediment, taking each day as it comes. Other, more forward-thinking species prefer to construct a tube-home out of mud and mucus. If anyone's going to make a home out of mud and mucus, it's a worm. Still other Spionids must have tiny drills because they manage to excavate their homes out of limestone. The rudest of the lot are like squatters, burrowing into the shells of living molluscs.

Wherever they live, they keep most of their body hidden from view and extend their long, flexible tentacles into the water or along the ground around them. The tentacles bear grooves with waving cilia inside to bring specks of food to their mouth like tiny conveyor belts.

Image: Hans Hillewaert
Most Spionids are small, like 3 cm (an inch) long or less, and extremely slim. Though the bigger ones can reach 15 cm (6 in) long. Either way, there's always something out there willing to eat a worm no matter how small and covered in mud and mucus it is. To combat this, Spionid tentacles can fall off easily to act as a distraction while the rest of the worm makes an escape.

Therefore we're left with this bit of wisdom: it's better to be one worm with two tentacles, than two worms with one.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Spider Wasp

Image: Eframgoldberg
If you're an arachnophobe, you might like to think of this as "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Unless you also hate wasps. If you suffer from spheksophobia be aware that many Spider Wasps are scarier than your average wasp and the enemy of your enemy is a super-powerful enemy.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Bluebell Sea Squirt

Image: Arjan Gittenberger
Perophora namei
Squirts on a stick!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

South American Leaffish

Image: Chris Geatch
It's a carnivorous leaf! The vegetables have finally had enough and are seeking revenge against us all! Especially vegetarians. Those juice-thirsty vegetarians.
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