Rare spider back in the Netherlands after 124 years


This video is about a Piratula knorri spider.

Naturalists in the Netherlands report that a spider species, last seen in the Netherlands in 1890, was seen again on 29 May 2014 in Limburg province.

This species is called Piratula knorri.

Kingfisher cleans its feathers, video


This video is about a male kingfisher in the Netherlands on 25 May 2014.

It got covered in spider silk; so, it had to clean its feathers.

René Vos made the video.

Violin strings from spider silk


This is a video, in German, about the new violin strings made from spiders‘ silk.

From the Strad:

Japanese scientist creates violin strings from spider silk

Monday, 05 March 2012

A researcher in Japan has succeeded in using silk from hundreds of spiders to make a set of violin strings. Shigeyoshi Osaki, a professor at Nara Medical University in southern Honshu, used between 3,000 and 5,000 strands of silk for each string, which produced ‘a soft and profound timbre’ when played.

According to BBC News, Osaki bred 300 female Nephila maculata spiders to make the strands, all of which are used by the arachnids to hang from, rather than to make webs. Each string is formed by twisting the silk strands in one uniform direction.

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New tarantula discoveries in Argentina, one species named after musician Atahualpa Yupanqui


This video from Mexico says about itself:

The Mexican red rump tarantula is a large jet black spider with bright red hairs on its abdomen. Although little is known about the biology of the ‘vagans’, as is with most tarantulas, adult females are normally 5- 7.5 cm in body length, with a leg span up to 13 cm. Adult males are usually smaller and shorter.

Vibrant example of the “red rump” a.k.a. Brachypelma vagans. Mexican red-rumps are nocturnal predators, feeding on ground-dwelling insects, arachnids, crustaceans and more. Just like the common Chilean rose hair tarantula, it has irritating bristle hairs on its abdomen used as a defense against other predators.

From Wildlife Extra:

Three new tarantula species discovered

Three new tarantula species have been found in northern Argentina by a team of scientists from the Universidad de La República, Uruguay.

These new tarantula species belong to the subfamily Theraphosinae, which are distributed exclusively in the Americas, with the greatest diversity is found in South America.

Melloleitaoina mutquina, has been named after Mutquín, where this species is distributed, while M. uru was inspired [on] an ancient legend [in] Quichua, from the northern limit of Argentina, about the Inca princess Uru, who because of her whims and bad government was transformed by the gods into a spider and forced to endlessly work weaving. Lastly, the third new species M. yupanqui, was named to honour the most important Argentine musician of folklore Atahualpa Yupanqui.

These often hairy and very large spiders known as tarantulas are one of the most famous arachnid groups. Despite their ill fame as vicious killers most tarantulas are harmless to humans. Most tarantulas have a long lifespan, in particular females who can live between 15 and 30 years.

This music video is called Atahualpa Yupanqui – 1957 – Camino del Indio.

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Prehistoric harvestman had extra eyes


This video says about itself:

10 April 2014

A 305-million-year-old harvestman fossil, ancestor of modern day arachnids, is more closely relates to the scorpions than spiders. Scientists discovered unusual features: it has 2 sets of eyes on the center and lateral sides of the body.

From Discovery News:

Ancient Daddy Longlegs Had Extra Eyes

APRIL 12, 2014 12:30 PM ET // BY PAUL HELTZEL

A 304-million-year-old fossil discovered in Eastern France shows primitive living harvestmen — more commonly called daddy longlegs — had one more pair of eyes than they do today.

The ancient harvestmen had a pair of eyes along the middle of the body — like their modern counterparts — but they also had a pair of eyes on the side of the body. The findings were reported by researchers from the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Manchester, in the journal Current Biology.

Photos: Look If You Dare: Ancient Spider Family Album

Scientists studied the fossil using high-resolution X-ray imaging at the Natural History Museum, London.

“Our X-ray techniques have allowed us to reveal this fossil in more detail than we would have dreamed possible two decades ago,” said Russell Garwood, a research fellow at the University of Manchester and a lead author on the study, in a release.

Though Harvestmen have eight legs and are categorized as arachnids, they’re not spiders. They’re more closely related to scorpions.

The scientists also examined the expression of an eye-stalk growing gene in harvestmen embryos. The embryos briefly express the gene for the second pair of eyes. But by the time they hatch, the daddy long legs’ second pair of eyes are long gone.

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Costa Rican frogs and spiders


Green-and-black poison frog, 17 March 2014

After yesterday, in the morning of 17 March 2014, still near the Sarapiqui river in Costa Rica. One of many animals there is this green-and-black poison dart frog.

Red-eyed tree frog, 17 March 2014

While a red-eyed tree frog was asleep under a leaf.

Masked tree frog, 17 March 2014

There was a masked tree frog as well.

Golden silk spider, female, 17 March 2017

In a big web, a golden silk spider couple.

Golden silk spider female, 17 March 2017

The female was much bigger than the male.

Golden silk spider male, 17 March 2017

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New spider species discovery in Malaysian Borneo


This video is called Giant spider in Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia at the Cultural Village.

However, there are also much smaller spiders in Malaysian Borneo.

From Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands:

Students on field course bag new spider species

Posted on 07-03-2014 by Menno Schilthuizen

Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Danau Girang Field Centre, Sabah Wildlife Department, Pensoft Publishers

As a spin-off (pun intended) of their Tropical Biodiversity course in Malaysian Borneo, a team of biology students discover a new spider species, build a makeshift taxonomy lab, write a joint publication and send it off to a major taxonomic journal.

Discovering a new spider species was not what she had anticipated when she signed up for her field course in Tropical Biodiversity, says Elisa Panjang, a Malaysian master’s student from Universiti Malaysia Sabah. She is one of twenty students following the course, organised by Naturalis Biodiversity Center in The Netherlands, and held in the Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The aim of the one-month course, say organisers Vincent Merckx and Menno Schilthuizen, is to teach the students about how the rich tapestry of the tropical lowland rainforest’s ecosystem is woven.

Besides charismatic species, such as the orang-utans that the students encounter every day in the forest, the tropical ecosystem consists of scores of unseen organisms, and the course focus is on these “small things that run the world”—such as the tiny orb-weaving spiders of the tongue-twistingly named family Symphytognathidae. These one-millimetre-long spiders build tiny webs that they suspend between dead leaves on the forest floor. “When we started putting our noses to the ground we saw them everywhere,” says Danish student Jennie Burmester enthusiastically. What they weren’t prepared for was that the webs turned out to be the work of an unknown species, as spider specialist Jeremy Miller, an instructor on the course, quickly confirmed.

The students then decided to make the official naming and description of the species a course project. They rigged the field centre’s microscopes with smartphones to produce images of the tiny spider’s even tinier genitals (using cooking oil from the station’s kitchen to make them more translucent), dusted the spider’s webs with puffs of corn flour (also from the kitchen) to make them stand out and described the way they were built. They also put a spider in alcohol as “holotype”, the obligatory reference specimen for the naming of any new species—which is to be stored in the collection of Universiti Malaysia Sabah. Finally, a dinner-time discussion yielded a name for this latest addition to the tree of life: Crassignatha danaugirangensis, after the field centre’s idyllic setting at the Danau Girang oxbow lake.

All data and images were then compiled into a scientific paper, which, via the station’s satellite link, was submitted to the Biodiversity Data Journal, a leading online journal for quick dissemination of new biodiversity data, which is currently considering it for publication. Even though thousands of similarly-sized spider species still await discovery, Miller thinks the publication is an important one. “It means we provide a quick anchor point for further work on this species; the naming of a species is the only way to make sure we’re all singing from the same score,” he says.

Field station director Benoît Goossens adds: “This tiny new spider is a nice counterpoint to the large-mammal work we’re doing and having it named after the field centre is extremely cool”. The Danau Girang Field Centre is located in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, a strip of rainforest along Sabah’s major river, squeezed in by vast oil palm plantations on either side. Despite intensive search, the students could not find the new spider in the plantations.

The notion of spiders using ants as bodyguards seems a bit contradictory, but that is exactly what occurs on the tropical forest floors of the Philippines. The jumping spider (Phintella piatensis) strategically nests within the vicinity of the aggressive Asian weaver ant (Ocecophylla smaragdina) as a defense tactic against its main predator, the spitting spider (Scytodes species): here.

Borneo is losing rainforest faster than anywhere else in the world: here.

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Spider vegetarianism, new research


This video is called Male nursery web spider (Pisaura mirabilis) offering prey to female.

From the University of Exeter in England:

Spiders partial to a side order of pollen with their flies

Spiders may not be the pure predators we generally believe, after a study found that some make up a quarter of their diet by eating pollen.

Dr Dirk Sanders of the University of Exeter demonstrated that orb web spiders – like the common garden variety – choose to eat pollen even when insects are available.

Spider webs snare insect prey, but can also trap aerial plankton like pollen and fungal spores.

Dr Sanders, alongside Mr Benjamin Eggs from the University of Bern, conducted feeding experiments and a stable isotope analysis on juvenile spiders to see whether they incorporate plant resources into their diet.

They discovered that 25 per cent of the spiders’ food intake was made up of pollen, with the remaining 75 per cent consisting of flying insects.

The spiders that ate both pollen and flies gained optimal nourishment, with all essential nutrients delivered by the combination.

Dr Sanders, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, said: “Most people and researchers think of spiders as pure carnivores, but in this family of orb web spiders that is not the case. We have demonstrated that the spiders feed on pollen caught in their webs, even if they have additional food, and that it forms an important part of their nourishment.

“The proportion of pollen in the spiders’ diet in the wild was high, so we need to classify them as omnivores rather than carnivores.”

Orb web spiders regularly take down and eat their webs to recycle the silk proteins, and it had been suggested they may ‘accidentally’ consume the pollen during this process.

But the study found this to be impossible due to the size of the grains ingested, indicating that they were actively consumed by the spider coating them in a digestive enzyme before sucking up the nutrients.

The research paper, Herbivory in Spiders: The Importance of Pollen for Orb-Weavers, is published in the journal PLOS One.

Date: 18 December 2013

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Tobacco hornworm uses nicotine against spiders


This video says about itself:

The Power Of A Caterpillar’s Bad Breath (PNAS, Kumar et al)

30 Dec 2013

A spider backs off after a caterpillar unleashes its secret weapon: a breath heavy with nicotine.

Supporting material for Kumar et al., “Natural history-driven, plant-mediated RNAi-based study reveals CYP6B46’s role in a nicotine-mediated antipredator herbivore defense.” PNAS published 30 December 2013.

From Nature World News:

‘Nicotine Breath’ Helps Tobacco-Eating Caterpillar Escape Predators [ Video]

By Affirunisa Kankudti

Dec 31, 2013 08:44 AM EST

The tobacco hornworm or Manduca sexta chases away its predators by its nasty nicotine breath, a new study has revealed. The bug uses a nifty trick to convert some of its food into a cloud of poisonous compound that repels its enemies.

Nicotine isn’t just an addictive compound that’s found in tobacco-containing products. The compound is also used as an active ingredient in insecticides. In fact, nicotine is a potent neurotoxin  and can even kill people.

The tobacco hornworm is also known as the goliath worm. This species of hornworm not only tolerates high levels of the compound, but also uses it as a defense mechanism to avoid predators.

The present study was conducted by researchers at Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany.

“It’s really a story about how an insect that eats a plant co-opts the plant for its own defense,” study researcher Ian Baldwin, a professor at the Institute told LiveScience.

Researchers knew that caterpillars that feed extensively on nicotine containing plants are usually avoided by ants and wasps. However, no one knew why this happened.

Also, an earlier research had shown that tobacco hornworms grown on plants that don’t produce much nicotine have lower activity of CYP6B46 gene. This study had pointed to the role of genes in helping the bug neutralize the ill-effects of nicotine.

For the present study, researchers altered some genes in the plants to disrupt caterpillars’ ability to detect the compound in its food, Smithsonian reported. The changes in the plant gene resulted in silencing a corresponding gene in the caterpillar. These modified plants were then grown in a private ranch in Utah. The experts then observed how this change in diet affected the bugs’ survival technique.

The team found that hornworms that fed on these genetically modified tobacco plants were more likely to be preyed on by wolf spiders.

The conclusion was an obvious one- the absence of the gene meant that the bugs weren’t able to neutralize the effects of nicotine. However, the team didn’t find any traces of the compound in the hornworms’ feces. Instead, researchers found that CYP6B46 was helping the bug use some of the nicotine and send it to haemolymph. From there, the nicotine was sent to small pores on the caterpillar’s flanks known as spiracles. These pores release small amount of nicotine, creating a nicotine cloud around the bug, the National Geographic reported.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Sheet web spider European spider of the year 2014


Linyphia triangularis, female

The sheet web spider (Linyphia triangularis) will be the European spider of the year 2014.

This species is rather common in northern Europe; less so in the south.