Sunday, 24 May 2015

Cat-faced Spider

Image: Madelyn
The spider with a cat's face!

It's just... not on its face. This isn't one of your cutesy-wutesy jumping spiders, after all.

Image: Don Loarie
Araneus gemma
Cat-faced Spider are really two, similar species who are both found in the western side of North America, ranging from Alaska all the way down to California. Both have two, cute cat ears on their abdomen and even little dimples where the eyes should be! Unfortunately their arachnid bristles are nowhere near as satisfying to the touch as luscious fur.

The smaller of the two species is Araneus gemma, where the females are usually scarcely more than a centimetre (0.4 in) long and the males slightly smaller. They tend to have a pale stripe on their abdomen who's length varies.

Image: Trappist_the_monk
Araneus gemmoides
The other is Araneus gemmoides. Females here are pretty big at up to 2.5 cm (an inch) long. It's not "tropical rainforest big", where all creepy-crawlies seem to level up and attain their ultimate form, but for sheltered souls in more northerly climes, inch-long spider is big monster spider.

This one has a short, pale stripe on the top of the cat's head which then splits into two and points at each of the ears. Males are about half the length of the female and much, much slimmer.

Image: stonebird
A. gemma
Both species are extremely variable in colour. They can be pale as straw or dark as a witch's familiar...

Image: B Staffan Lindgren
A. gemmoides
And covered in all sorts of patterns and markings.

Image: stonebird
A. gemma
A. gemmoides seems to be way more famous than their smaller cousins, presumably because of their memorable size and perhaps also because they are more likely to construct their webs near buildings where they can make use of their prey insect's wildly immoderate attraction to light bulbs.

A. gemmoides, and maybe also A.gemma, are mostly nocturnal. They spend the daylight hours sheltering in a leaf or some other safe place near their web.

Image: stonebird
A. gemma
They emerge at night to get some work done. They might fix their web, build a whole new web, destroy their old web and build a new web, or go walkabout to find a place to build a web. It's all about the web.

And if they don't have anything like that to do they'll sit in the middle of their web and snatch up any insects who get caught in their web. Still all about the web. Work, rest and play: INTERNET. I mean: WEB. Spiders were so ahead of their time.

Image: Linda Tanner
Male and female A. gemma
Speaking of play, in late summer the smaller, leaner, more athletic males have to go out and find a female with which to mate. He does that...


Video: A2daDD

And he might get eaten afterwards. Ho hum. It's called swings and roundabouts. What you gain on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts. Or else you fall off the swings and land in the crocodile infested pool beneath. Fun while it lasted.

The female stores the male's sperm as her eggs grow and develop. She'll become increasingly egg-shaped herself as she gets plumper and plumper before fertilizing her eggs.

She's at her most rotund in the autumn months before she finally lays her eggs and wraps them all up in an egg sac. She soon dies, leaving her eggs to overwinter.

Image: B Staffan Lindgren
Spiderlings!
Come the spring, the eggs hatch and hundreds of tiny spiderlings emerge into the world. They walk, they wander, they release lengths of silk into the air and let the winds take them far and wide. They land and after seeing such sights, and after all those months crammed in a sack with all their brothers and sisters, they immediately take to a solitary life on the web.

So ahead of their time.

5 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

not sure i see a cat's face in that...

Lear's Fool said...

Very much not an octokitten, yes!

I was briefly thinking they'd be more appropriate as cat butt spider, but I quickly realize that could be taken completely the wrong way, and that spider would look really different.

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

@TexWisGirl: It's just under the ears :P

@Lear's Fool: Haha! I don't want to see THAT spider!

jacquekh said...

My cat face is on my front semi enclosed deck. We ALL love her, her name is 'big Bertha' as she's really big, and bright orange. She does things her way, not the way she's 'supposed' to, according to experts. She usually hangs out head down in the center of her web, all day long! She doesn't 'hide' in daylight, as it's said they'll do. Mine would 'go against the grain' as I've always done!!! Lol!!!
One worry I have is that 'mud daubers' around here will paralyse these beautiful spiders, and incorporate their live bodies into there nests!!!! The horror! 😡 So, I now worry about her, on top of everything else in life!!! Ha! Nature is one continual reality show, the best there is...🕷🐞🐝🐜

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

Hahaa! You got the beginnings of a soap opera there!

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