New tarantula species named after singer Johnny Cash


Aphonopelma johnnycashi. Image credit: Hamilton C.A. et al.

From Sci-News.com in the USA:

Aphonopelma johnnycashi: Newfound Tarantula Species Named after Johnny Cash

Feb 5, 2016 by Enrico de Lazaro

A team of researchers, directed by Dr. Chris Hamilton of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, has discovered a previously unknown species of tarantula that lives in the plains and foothills of the western Sierra Nevada Mountains, the United States, and named it after the famed American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author Johnny Cash.

The newly-discovered species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, has a distribution running along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and can be found inhabiting the following regions: Sierra Nevada, Central California Foothills and Coastal Mountains, and Central California Valley.

“The specific epithet, johnnycashi, is in honor of the country music legend, Johnny Cash,” Dr. Hamilton and co-authors explained in a paper in the journal ZooKeys.

“This species can be found near the area of Folsom Prison in California (famous for Cash’s song ‘Folsom Prison Blues’), and like Cash’s distinctive style of dress, where he was referred to as ‘the man in black’, mature males of this species are generally black in color.”

The breeding season of Aphonopelma johnnycashi, when mature males abandon their burrows in search of females, occurs during the fall (generally September-November).

“More than 50 different species of tarantulas had been previously reported from the United States, but that many of them were poorly defined and actually belonged to the same species,” Dr. Hamilton said.

To gain a better understanding of the diversity and distributions of these spiders, he and his colleagues spent more than a decade searching for tarantulas throughout scorching deserts, frigid mountains, and other locations in the American Southwest.

The team studied nearly 3,000 specimens, undertaking the most comprehensive taxonomic study ever performed on a group of tarantulas.

Because most species of tarantula in the United States are very similar in appearance and cannot be distinguished from each other using anatomical features alone, the researchers implemented a modern approach to taxonomy by employing anatomical, behavioral, distributional, and genetic data.

Their results indicate there are 29 species in the United States, among which Aphonopelma johnnycashi and 13 other species are new to science.

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Johnny Cash – Man in black with lyrics

Recorded February 16, 1971; Nashville, Tennessee

Rare spider named after singer David Bowie


This video is about a Heteropoda davidbowie spider feeding.

From The Star in Malaysia:

Monday, 11 January 2016 | MYT 11:58 PM

Rare Malaysian spider named after late rock star David Bowie

PETALING JAYA: You may not know this, but a rare yellow-coloured spider that is only found in parts of Malaysia was named after the late rock star David Bowie.

The spider, discovered seven years ago by an individual named Peter Jager, is called Heteropoda davidbowie, according to a 2009 report by British newspaper The Telegraph.

The spider is distinguished by its large size and yellow hair.

Bowie was selected for the honour because of his musical contribution to [the ] arachnid world – the 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Jager said that naming spiders after celebrities drew attention to the near extinct species whose habitats are being destroyed due to human activity.

Bowie, who churned out era-defining hits like “Space Oddity“, “Young Americans” and “Let’s Dance”, died at the age of 69 Monday after battling with cancer.

This music video is called David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust, taken from ‘Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (The Motion Picture Soundtrack)’.

Ladybird spiders in Dorset, England


This is a ladybird spider video from Turkey.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Strictly not for arachnophobes

Friday 15th January 2016

PETER FROST reports on the interminable and complex initiative to re-establish the ladybird spider – once thought extinct in Britain –in its natural habitat of a Dorset heathland

One of Britain’s rarest and most colourful spiders the Ladybird spider (Eresus sandaliatus) was thought to be extinct in Britain for over 70 years, until a tiny population was rediscovered on a tiny patch of land, barely 50 yards square, in Dorset in 1980.

Since then no other populations have been detected. It is believed to have once been found in Cornwall and the Isle of Wight but no more.

The spider gets its name from the bright red body of the male decorated with four large ladybird-like spots. The male body is 6-9 mm long excluding legs. The male’s legs are bright black with white stripes. The female is larger, 10-16 mm excluding legs and totally velvety black. She rarely leaves her nest. Young spiders too are velvety black.

The species lives in burrows with silk trip-wires covered with dense fluffy threads that radiate outwards to catch their prey, which includes large insects like devil’s coach horse and violet ground beetles.

The male only emerges for two weeks in May to breed. Having found a burrow containing a female he plucks at the trip wires in a way that distinguishes him from prey. This protects him from becoming a meal.

After mating, the female lays up to 80 eggs in a cocoon in her burrow during the summer and guards them until the spiderlings hatch in July or August.

She feeds them on regurgitated food and finally, rather ungratefully, the young spiders eat their own mother. Females only breed once.

The spiderlings disperse to make their own burrows in the following April, and take three or four years to reach breeding age.

The Ladybird spider is still so endangered in Britain that it has been possible to count each individual spider in Dorset, the only place it has managed to keep a small but determined eight-legged foothold.

The spider can only live on lowland heathland — and this is its main problem. Our native heathland has suffered drastic decline over the last century, being ploughed up for agriculture and forestry, or built over.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve at Arne, just four miles from Wareham, Dorset, is a great place to see avocets and little egrets but it is just as important for its preservation of the native heathland in its original form and, of course, the Ladybird spider.

Arne boasts over 250 species of spider and hundreds of insect species including the threatened silver studded blue butterfly and the Purbeck mason wasp which is only found in Dorset.

As well as insects and spiders the heathland is also home to endangered reptiles such as smooth snakes and sand lizards, and rare birds such as the Dartford warbler, stonechat and nightjar.

The Ladybird spider’s long life-cycle, very specific requirements and the fact that it is not good at colonising new sites have all added to its vulnerability.

When it was first rediscovered in 1980, the last remaining site supported just seven individual spiders, but successful habitat management has resulted in the population expanding to its current level of nearly a thousand individuals.

Over the last five years other colonies have been established on Dorset heathland. Spiders have been carefully released onto new sites — increasing their populations in Dorset from one to eight. But there is still a lot of work to do.

For a start conservation charities like the RSPB want to establish at least 20 Ladybird spider populations in the wild.

If this spider is to thrive we need to continue the programme of releasing spiders onto new sites and to monitor existing populations to ensure that they are healthy and doing well. The habitat needs to be managed to ensure that the sites remain in the right condition for the spider.

In 2011, it was first released onto the RSPB’s Arne reserve. Surveys here carried out this year show that the spiders are doing well and are now expanding outside of the original release areas.

During the original translocation, scientists used an ingenious low-tech method of transferring the spiders. They used recycled empty plastic mineral water bottles which are an ideal shape and size for the spiders to make their nests in.

The bottles are filled with heather and moss and captured spiders from the donor site placed inside and monitored while they settled in and made a web. The bottles were then buried in holes in the ground offering some protection but allowing the spiders to venture out to colonise adjacent areas.

Toby Branston, RSPB Dorset reserve ecology manager told us: “It’s great to see this incredible little spider doing well in its new home. The hard work has started to pay off. Searches this year have found five new webs away from the release sites as well as others in their original bottle-homes. A great sign that the spiders are feeling settled here at Arne.”

Birds and spiders during wind, photo contest winners


Robin during wind

This photo of this robin, by Tinies, is the winner in a Dutch photo contest with at its theme ‘Wind’.

Feral pigeon

This photo of a feral pigeon, by Duysens, won the second prize.

Spiders' webs during wind

And this photo, by pietdriessen, about spiders and their webs moved by wind, won the third prize.

Black widow spider web DNA, new reaearch


This video says about itself:

Deadly Mates: Black Widow Spider

13 February 2008

If you think the dating world of humans is tough, check out the love life of black widows, where one misstep can lead to a lethal end.

From the BBC:

Black widow spider web gives up DNA secrets

By Helen Briggs

26 November 2015

Spiders can be identified from the DNA they leave on webs, say US scientists.

Analysis of genetic material stuck to spiders’ webs also reveals what they have eaten weeks after catching their prey.

The research may have future uses in monitoring endangered species or tracking down spider pests, experts report in the journal Plos One.

The study looked at black widow spiders kept in a zoo.

If the technique works on other types of spider, it could have widespread practical uses, say experts from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Lead researcher, Charles Xu, extracted mitochondrial DNA from the webs of black widow spiders kept at Potawatomi Zoo in Indiana.

He found that both the spider species and its prey – in this case crickets – can be identified from DNA spider web samples.

Spider webs can potentially be used to collect DNA without having to capture the spiders themselves, he says.

“In the past, identification of spiders has relied on morphology, especially looking at the genitalia of spiders because they’re very different between different species of spider,” he told BBC News.

“But there are a lot of errors associated with these kinds of methods and now with the advent of new genetic technologies we can more accurately identify these species.

“The really cool part about our study is that we used non-invasive samples – so these web samples – where we don’t even have to directly observe or capture these spiders to get their DNA.”

Proof-of-concept

The experts say DNA analysis of spiders’ webs may be useful for monitoring and conservation purposes.

For example, DNA “fingerprinting” of spiders’ webs could be used to find out where a poisonous spider is living or to map the locations of endangered species.

Spider webs have been used in the past by citizen scientists to assess spider biodiversity by examining the structure of webs.

Web DNA samples collected by citizen scientists around the world might also have potential in this area, say the researchers.

“Spider web DNA as a proof-of-concept may open doors to other practical applications in conservation research, pest management, biogeography studies, and biodiversity assessments,” they report in Plos One.

Black widow

Black widow spiders, found in temperate regions around the world, are feared for their venomous bite.

The female black widow spider can be twice as big as the male and will, on occasion, kill and eat the male after mating.

The spiders spin large webs in which females suspend a cocoon with hundreds of eggs.

They also use their webs to trap prey such as flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, beetles and caterpillars.

Spider builds web, video


This video shows an European garden spider building its web.

Boudewijn van den Hazel in the Netherlands made this video.