Sydney spiders bigger than Australian outback spiders


This video from the USA says about itself:

6 June 2011

Get a behind-the-scenes look at this history and creation of this dazzling textile—the only one of its kind in the world—made from the strands of silk from over one million of Madagascar’s golden orb spiders. On view at the Art Institute of Chicago through October 2011.

From Wired magazine:

Cities Are Making Spiders Grow Bigger and Multiply Faster

By Nick Stockton

08.20.14, 2:00 pm

Something about city life appears to be causing spiders to grow larger than their rural counterparts. And if that’s not enough to give you nightmares, these bigger urban spiders are also multiplying faster.

A new study published today in PLOS One shows that golden orb weaver spiders living near heavily urbanized areas in Sydney, Australia tend to be bigger, better fed, and have more babies than those living in places less touched by human hands.

The study’s authors collected 222 of the creatures from parks and bushland throughout Sydney, and correlated their sizes to features of the built and natural landscape. …

To measure urbanization, the authors looked primarily at ground cover throughout the city, at several scales, where they collected each spider: Are surfaces mostly paved? Is there a lack of natural vegetation? Lawns as opposed to leaf litter?

“The landscape characteristics most associated with larger size of spiders were hard surfaces (concrete, roads etc) and lack of vegetation,” said Elizabeth Lowe, a Ph.D student studying arachnids at the University of Sydney.

Humped golden orb weavers are a common arachnid along Australia’s east coast. They get their name from their large, bulging thorax, and the gold silk they use to spin their spherical webs. They typically spend their lives in one place, constantly fixing the same web (which can be a meter in diameter). Each web is dominated by a single female, though 4 or 5 much smaller males usually hang around the edges of the web, waiting for an opportunity to mate (only occasionally does the female eat them afterwards).

Paved surfaces and lack of vegetation mean cities are typically warmer than the surrounding countryside. Orb weavers are adapted to warm weather, and tend to grow bigger in hotter temperatures. The correlation between size and urban-ness manifested at every scale. Citywide, larger spiders were found closer to the central business district. And, their immediate surroundings were more likely to be heavily paved and less shady.

More food also leads to bigger spiders, and the scientists believe that human activity attracts a smorgasbord of orb weavers’ favorite prey. Although the study wasn’t designed to determine exactly how the spiders were getting bigger, the researchers speculate that things like street lights, garbage, and fragmented clumps of plant life might attract insects. They also believe that the heat island effect might let urban spiders mate earlier in the year, and might even give them time to hatch multiple broods.

The orb weavers could also be keeping more of what they catch. Because they are such prolific hunters, orb weavers’ webs are usually home to several other species of spiders that steal food. The researchers found that these little kleptos were less common in webs surrounded by pavement and little vegetation.

Lowe says quite a few species of spider are successful in urban areas, and she wouldn’t be surprised if some of these other species were also getting bigger. Despite how terrifying this sounds, she assures me that this is actually a good thing. “They control fly and pest species populations and are food for birds,” she said.

Bird songs and visual arts


This August 2014 video says about itself:

Nightingale and Canary

Australian artist Andy Thomas specializes in creating ‘audio life forms’: beautiful abstract shapes that react to sounds. In this animated short, he visualizes two recorded bird sounds from the archives of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision [beeldengeluid.nl] in Hilversum.

This video, from Victoria, Australia, also by Andy Thomas, is called Whip Bird Sound Sculpture test 1.

Red-backed fairywrens in Australia, new study


This 13 August 2014 video is called Studying Red-backed Fairywrens in Australia.

More about this study is here.

See also Seven Ways of Looking at a Fairywren: Student Research in Australia.

Young shark Jennifer studied off Australia


This video says about itself:

The Fastest Shark in the Ocean

The shortfin mako shark swims at speeds up to 60 mph.

From the South Australian Research and Development Institute, with maps there, yesterday:

Jennifer is a juvenile female shortfin mako. She was satellite tagged from FV Home Strait off Lakes Entrance, eastern Victoria in mid July 2013. She was 180 cm in length. We used a very small and light SIRTRACK K2F161A satellite tag. Her tag is duty cycled at 2 days to conserve battery power.

Shark Eyes Designed to Catch Photons in Twilight Zone: here.

Australian bereaved families react to flight MH17 disaster


Flight MH17

By Peter Byrne in Australia:

Australia: Two significant reactions to the MH17 tragedy

31 July 2014

Two Australian families of those killed in the MH17 disaster have made statements that stand out in stark contrast to much of the commentary in the corporate media. They differ sharply from the Australian government’s agenda of exploiting the tragedy as part of the US-led campaign against Russia and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Queensland couple, Roger and Jill Guard were killed in the MH17 crash along with 296 others. Roger Guard headed the pathology department at Toowoomba Base Hospital. He had worked in the public health system for 40 years. Jill Guard, also a doctor, worked in general practice. They were on their way home from a two-month European holiday.

The Guard family posted an online tribute describing Roger Guard as a dedicated professional then continued: “Away from work, he was an avid reader and was incredibly knowledgeable in geography, history and science. He was interested in knowing how the world works, and fascinated by the endless complexity of nature. He challenged his kids to be curious and inquisitive and to find out facts for ourselves rather than accepting assertions without evidence. He was a scientist to the core.”

Writing about his mother, Paul Guard said: “Jill was also a dedicated doctor who worked in general practice for many years. She worked for most of her career at the Family Planning Clinic in Toowoomba specialising in women’s health. She also committed herself to multiple worthy causes including Meals On Wheels, assisting Sudanese refugees in Toowoomba and sponsoring children through World Vision. She was a talented musician and played the cello, piano and recorder … She cared for a number of people in need over her years in Toowoomba, and provided emotional and practical support for many more. She was truly selfless and consistently put her family and friends’ needs above her own.”

These accounts of the lives and outlook of his parents go some way to explaining the tone and content of the interview given by their son, Paul, one of their three children, to ABC News 24.

Paul Guard was composed and determined to make some important points. Following general questions about his parents, he was asked what message he had for the Australian government and all world leaders.

He replied: “In terms of finding out who’s responsible for this, I believe that the party responsible for the death of my parents, all those children on the plane, all of those people in the prime of their lives, is not just Vladimir Putin, it’s not just the Russian military, it’s not the Ukrainian government or the separatist rebels or even the person who pressed the button on the missile launcher—I believe it’s the conflict itself.

“If the conflict wasn’t happening there, that plane would not have been shot down.”

He then called on world leaders, including the Australian government, to find a way to halt the conflict “if you want justice for the victims and the victims’ families.”

Three siblings, Mo aged 12, Evie aged 10 and Otis aged 8 were travelling with their grandfather Nick Norris, from Amsterdam to their home in Perth on flight MH17. The parents of the three children, Anthony Maslin and Marite Norris had stayed for a few extra days holiday planning to catch a later flight. Last week they published a message addressed to “the soldiers in the Ukraine, the politicians, the media, our friends and family.”

“Our pain is intense and relentless. We live in a hell beyond hell. Our babies are not here with us—we need to live with this act of horror, every day and every moment for the rest of our lives.

“No one deserves what we are going through. Not even the people who shot our whole family out of the sky. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for our children, for Mo, for Evie, for Otis. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for Grandad Nick. No hate in the world is as strong as the love we have for each other. This is a revelation that gives us some comfort.”

Then, in an implicit condemnation of any attempts to use the tragedy for militarist purposes, they continued: “We would ask everyone to remember this when you are making any decisions that affect us and the other victims of this horror.”

Both the Guard and Maslin families have expressed widely held antiwar sentiments, fundamentally at odds with the bloodlust continually promoted by the political establishment and mass media.

A Thursday article in the New Straits Times, Malaysia’s flagship English-language newspaper, charged the US- and European-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev with shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 in east Ukraine last month. Given the tightly controlled character of the Malaysian media, it appears that the accusation that Kiev shot down MH17 has the imprimatur of the Malaysian state: here.

As it did following the still-unexplained downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, the Australian government is again taking a prominent role in the mounting threats being issued by Washington and its allies against Russia: here.

The deafening silence of the US media and government about the investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 one month ago reeks of a cover-up: here.

With a handful of exceptions, a shroud of silence has been drawn by the international media regarding the fate of Malaysian Airlines MH17, which crashed over Ukraine nearly six weeks ago: here.

In an August 29 editorial calling for the US and NATO to adopt a retaliatory policy against Russia over its alleged “large and unacceptable escalation of … aggression against Ukraine,” the New York Times asserts in passing that after rebels in eastern Ukraine “shot down a Malaysian jetliner with a Russian missile … Russia’s involvement became more overt.” What is most striking about this assertion is that it comes after roughly a month in which the Times, like the vast majority of the Western media, has gone virtually silent on the downing of Flight MH17, even as the most important evidence, including the plane’s black boxes, has become available to investigators: here.