Wednesday 30 April 2014

Moroccan Flic-flac Spider

Image: Prof. Dr. Rechenberg
Cebrennus rechenbergi
THIS. This is what we've all been waiting for. After the Mauritanian Flim-flam Beetle and the Austro-Hungarian Wibble-wobble Toad, we've finally found ourselves a Moroccan Flic-flac Spider.

The prophecy is fulfilled.

Image: Prof. Dr. Rechenberg
Actually I made most of those up. What I'm really trying to say is that I had NO IDEA what on earth a "flic-flac" was. Turns out it's that back flip, somersault thing the parkour guys do repeatedly on their way to the shops. Thus, the first thing I ever knowingly saw do a flic-flac had 8 legs. Good!

The Flic-flac Spider lives on the sand dunes of Morocco's Erg Chebbi, a massive sea of purest desert with scarcely a pebble to mar the fine grains of its wind-sculpted surface.

Image: Prof. Dr. Rechenberg
A burrow. I'm pretty sure the entire thing would usually be underground
That's why this spider uses her silk to construct a comfortable, sandy tube in which to spend the days. She emerges at night to hunt for food.

The Moroccan Flic-flac Spider was discovered by one Prof. Dr. Ingo Rechenberg, head of the Department of Bionics and Evolution Techniques in Berlin. I would love to have seen his face!

Video: Sandskink

The spider cartwheels, indeed, flic-flacs, across the sand, somersaulting along with a push from its legs. In this way it can travel almost 2 metres (6.5 ft) per second, about twice as fast as it could by mere walking. It can even somersault uphill!

These acrobatics are used to ostentatiously escape predators, but add a few saltos and tucks and I reckon they could make the gymnastics team! Yeah, I'm pretty much a gymnastics expert now. It wasn't always like this. I remember when I didn't even know what a flic-flac was! Hard to believe, ay?

Video: biotechgermany
Prof. Dr. Rechenberg and his spider friend
Prof. Dr. Rechenberg sent a specimen on to Dr. Peter Jäger, a spider expert at Frankfurt. Dr. Jäger did what most spider experts do. He took out a microscope and carefully analysed some spider sex organs to see if it was a new species.

Image: Prof. Dr. Rechenberg
At the mouth of her burrow
It was. It's also the only one known to flic-flac, so from now on that will be the more entertaining and less intrusive way of identifying it.

Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Rechenberg did what I guess anyone at the Department of Bionics and Evolution Techniques would have done. He made a robot.

Image: Prof. Dr. Rechenberg
It's a robot that can both walk and roll, just like the spider. He reckons it might one day roll across the ocean floor or the surface of Mars. He calls it the Tabbot, coming from Tabacha, which means "spider" in the North African Berber language.

This is what we call "division of labour"; the guy looking at genitalia is not the guy making robots. I don't know what robot spider sex organs would look like but I don't think we'd want to see it rolling around anywhere.


Thanks to Will and Dimitri for bringing this one to my attention!


Crunchy said...

Just when I thought we'd escaped from one horrific spider...

But there is so much weirdness in this article! How does one look up from the microscope through which they're evaluating spider genitalia and NOT review the various choices they've made to bring them to that very moment? Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be entomologists.

Had I read about the robot before reading this article I would've thought it incredibly misleading to name a walking/tumbling robot a "spider-bot." But now I know better.

Thanks, Real Monstrosities!

TexWisGirl said...

spidey robot! too cool!

Porakiya said...

Athletic spiders, now nothing will surprise me. and robotic spider genitals XD that had me cracking up

Lear's Fool said...

Am I the only one here who wants to collect some and race them now?

And give them snazzy paint jobs? And little hats?

Crunchy said...

I will never object to giving tiny hats to animals. Except birds. Birds already have more than their fair share of hats.

Lear's Fool said...

And male mayflies. A lot of them have hats on their eyes. Weird.

Joseph JG said...

@Crunchy: It's important to know your robots! Some might say the same of spider genitalia...

@TexWisGirl: Just what the world was calling for!

@Porakiya Draekojin: If we get robotic spider genitals then no more robots will surprise me!

@Lear's Fool: Ha! That would be the most absurd race ever!

Yeah... Mayfly hats


Esther said...

Is there anything spiders *can't* do?

Joseph JG said...

They have a leg in many pies!

Lear's Fool said...


They can't fly. Be thankful!

(From 'This book is full of spiders. Seriously dude, don't touch it' By David Wong of 'John Dies at the End' and Cracked fame)

"There exists in this world a spider the size of a dinner plate, a foot wide if you include the legs. It’s called the Goliath Bird-Eating Spider, or the “Goliath FUCKING Bird-Eating Spider” by those who have actually seen one…I don’t know how they catch the birds. I know the Goliath Fucking Bird-Eating Spider can’t fly, because if it could, it would have a different name entirely. We would call it “sir” because it would be the dominant species on the planet. None of us would leave the house unless a Goliath Fucking Flying Bird-Eating Spider said it was okay."

Joseph JG said...

Haha! All hail the KING!

Even more so the QUEEN!

Kyle Coats said...

I came across this and thought this spider inspired Spider-Man parkour!!

Joseph JG said...

Wow! That was fantastic, thanks!

Lear's Fool said...

You know. . . I can't watch these guys now without Ridin' dirty popping into my head.

They see me rollin'. . .

Joseph JG said...

I see 'em rollin, but I ain't hatin!