Wednesday 11 July 2012

Leaf Curling Spider

Image: docbaty via Flickr
Phonognatha graeffei
It's always a little odd when you see things floating in mid-air. Odder still is when it's someone's house!

Image: Kate's Photo Diary via Flickr
The Leaf Curling Spider can be found in the more clement parts of Australia, around the north, east and south.

Image: Robert Whyte via Flickr
Females are no more than 1.2 cm (0.5 in) long but are eye-catching for their cream coloured, attractively marked abdomen.

Image: Robert Whyte via Flickr
Males are half the size of females but look almost as attractive.

Of course, the Leaf Curling Spider's real claim to fame is all that leaf curling they do.

Image: teejaybee via Flickr
They use their silk to pick up a dead leaf from the ground and hoist it up into position. Yet more silk is used to curl it up and form a little hideaway, closed at the top, open at the bottom. Sometimes they use other material like scraps of paper. They can even save a bit of curling time by using an abandoned snail shell!

Image: John Tann via Flickr
Whatever the abode is made of, it's not finished without an extensive patio. They spin two thirds of an orb web around the entrance so they can dash out to any flying insects that get trapped.

One leaf allowed.

It's a clever way of hiding from nasty individuals like birds and other predators.

Image: mgjefferies via Flickr
Some of these leaves serve as a marital home, with both a male and female occupant. It's a form of mate-guarding, where the resident male fights off any rivals who may enter the web to say "hello" to his wife. "You lookin' at my missus?"

Image: boobook48 via Flickr
Beautiful lady. Worth fighting for!
Mate-guarding is very much the male fending off other males for his own benefit. The female Leaf Curling Spider is as disinterested as ever and may well eat her mate. It's that "spider thang".

If the male manages to get the job done before the old girl turns around and shows him what she really thinks, the female will lay her eggs. They'll be in an egg sac housed in its very own leaf, hidden away in foliage a good distance from her own web.

Image: John Tann via Flickr
A youngster's abode
Once hatched, the home alone spiderlings make off to build their own leaf curled webs. They use soft, green leaves initially, only later graduating to the crispy complication of dead leaves.

It's always wondrous to see such amazing construction skills straight from the egg! It would take years for me to make myself a home any better than a massive cardboard box made entirely of cardboard boxes.


TexWisGirl said...

love the curled abode. :)

Joseph JG said...

Yeh, they're so well made!

Crunchy said...

Hermit spider!

Joseph JG said...

Good! There's something uniquely terrifying about spiders that enjoy each other's company: