Art & Media
i was walking around in the meadows looking for snakes
i looked at the log
i saw a snake face
and then a spider face
says Asia Murphy about this odd couple spotted in Lassen County, California. The snake was collected for research; the spider’s whereabouts are unknown.
- Redditor /u/orca153 captured this amazing photo of a tiny male Nephila drumming his palps on a massive female’s abdomen. (Uncropped version.)
- This photo of a spider on an apartment building’s buzzer keypad has been making the rounds after a repost account shared it. (This is probably the original source.)
- Check out this spectacularly pedipalped (is that a word?) Forsteropsalis bona harvestman from New Zealand cleaning his legs! Photo by Erin Powell.
Dispatches & Social Media
- Wayne Maddison has been blogging about his fieldwork trip to Singapore this month. He’s written posts about arachnologists he’s working with, Joseph Koh and LI Daiqin; losing and then finding a mysterious jumping spider; and of course eye-candy portraits of Singapore’s diverse jumping spiders, like Chrysilla and relatives.
- In this Ento Nation podcast episode, Cricket Man and Nancy Miorelli remember the life of the beloved entomologist Marianne Shockley, who died last month. (See also Miorelli’s lovely Twitter thread about Shockley’s legacy.)
- Gail, a Cuban scorpion (Heteroctenus garridoi) who was inadvertently brought back to Canada in luggage, has given birth to an adorable brood of scorplings at the Victoria Bug Zoo. “When the offspring get a little bigger, zoo officials say they will be removed from Gail’s cage in case she mistakes them for prey and devours them.”
- After four years of trying, Victoria Butterfly Gardens’ Justin Dunning finally got a time-lapse video of his nine-year-old Theraphosa stirmi molting.
- Photos of a huntsman spider eating a pygmy possum, posted by Justine Latton to the “Tasmanian Insects & Spiders” Facebook page, have attracted international attention. For an informative take on the huntsman (Delena cancerides) and its diet, see Caitlin Henderson’s post at Minibeast Wildlife.
- “Entomoludology: Arthropods in Video Games” is a comprehensive tour through arthropods in video games, with an eye on how these animals are presented. Truly some amazing stories in here. Curious about a Japanese card and arcade game called “Mushiking” (literally ‘Bug King’) that holds the Guinness world record for the most game official tournaments? (You’ll never guess how many. It’s a lot.) Want to know what real-world animals are named after Pokémon? Trust me, give this a read. (BONUS: The author of the paper is running a crowdfunding campaign to get a “‘study” about Pokemon biology published in a “real” (read: will publish anything for a price) scientific journal.)
- Related: The Japanese culture of kids collecting arthropods inspired the creators of Pokemon, which in turn inspired kids around the world to become entomologists and arachnologists. And now there is Pokémon-inspired bug catching gear! Retails for 1300y, or about $13.
Education & Outreach
- Fiona Cross appears on New Zealand kids’ show Fanimals, talking about why she loves spiders. She introduces some common NZ jumping spiders like Trite planiceps and Hypoblemum albovittata, as well as the Kenyan spiders she works with, like Evarcha culicivora and Portia.
- Caitlin Henderson of Minibeast Wildlife has an explanation of how people came to believe Australia’s white-tail spider (Lampona) had dangerously necrotic venom, and how we now know it doesn’t. Includes high-quality photos.
- University of Minnesota Morris prof PZ Myers and students are looking for spiders in local sheds and garages to track their populations from year to year. Myers is also blogging about how it’s going so far.
- For How Stuff Works, Jesslyn Shields has an informational article debunking the many myths about the brown recluse and its bite, featuring quotes from Rick Vetter, of course.
- Gil Wizen introduces one of the lesser-known arachnid orders, Schizomida or short-tailed whip scorpions, including great macro photos and details about their life cycle and behaviour.
- The Curious Kids series at The Conversation answers children’s science questions. In a recent column, Samantha Nixon and Andrew Walker give a simple explanation of what a spider’s eyes (or absence thereof) can tell us about their lifestyle and hunting strategy.
Research & Observations
Sexes and Mating
- The jumping spider Maevia inclemens is called the “dimorphic jumper” because its males come in two forms: one with head tufts and one with stripes. We still aren’t sure why. One new hypothesis: the stripes might resemble possibly dangerous insects’, to get females’ attention without making them think about food.
- Many spiders are sexually dimorphic in their morphology and behavior, but what about how and when they are active? In a species of jumping spider, activity peaks in the morning for both sexes. But for a species of running crab spider, females were most active at night, and males were most active early in the morning.
- Quindina opilionids are unique in that males build nests and guard the eggs. A nest must pass inspection by a female in order for her to lay eggs there. But in the rainforest of Costa Rica, rain frequently washes away the nests, and that affects males’ reproductive success.
- A bilateral gynandromorph ant-mimic jumping spider was found in Japan! That is, it appeared half male and half female, divided right down the middle. This spider acted like a male, confronting male spiders and trying to court female ones. This seems to be consistent with the (few) other observations of gynandromorph arthropods.
- Did you know that some wolf spiders actually make funnel webs like grass spiders? One such species is the South American Aglaoctenus lagotis…but the differences in mating behaviour, among other things, suggest that perhaps we’re dealing with two species mistakenly lumped together.
- Trechaleids are Central and South American spiders very similar to pisaurids, in behaviour as well as form; the females carry their egg sacs around with them, which limits their ability to find food. But pregnant females also take a hit even before they’ve made an egg sac.
- Opilionids (harvestmen) of the sub-order Eupnoi, which includes common temperate-region denizens like Phalangium opilio and Dicranopalpus ramosus, have a special gland called an ozopore that they use to release chemicals. We’re not sure what for, yet, but this review summarizes some possibilities and research directions.
- Comparing the visual system of vinegaroons to other arachnids’ can help us figure out the evolutionary relationships between them. Yes, this is secretly another “horseshoe crabs are arachnids” paper.
- They could have called this paper “Good vibrations” but they didn’t: “The effects of microhabitat specialization on mating communication in a wolf spider”. A wolf spider in the woods of central Florida, Schizocosa floridana, does all its courting and mating on oak and pine leaf (needle?) litter, and it turns out those are better than sand for tramsmitting its vibratory songs.
- Here’s a preliminary framework for investigating how noise pollution impacts invertebrates. While most research into noise pollution is about long-range air- or water-borne sound, the kinds of noise that affect bugs most are nearby airborne noise and noise transmitted through the ground.
- Scientists have only recently discovered that jumping spiders, in addition to having excellent vision, can hear sounds. In his Master’s thesis, Philip Denbaum tests whether jumping spiders use sound cues to know where to look [PDF].
- Two species of jumping spider, Portia fimbriata and Trite planiceps, go head-to-head in an obstacle course designed to test their navigational ability. The differences between their performances might be due to how complex their home environments are.
- After an in-depth survey, researchers in Australia have found that counting vertebrate species tells you very little about invertebrate diversity. To protect all types of animals, we need to explicitly count and consider invertebrates.
- An unsurprising finding, but good to have the data: in Brazil and Mexico, tropical forests have more diverse scorpion populations than human-settled areas.
- When populations are isolated from each other, they all evolve differently — think Darwin’s finches in the Galápagos Islands. In the southwestern US, desert oases are like islands for jumping spiders in the Habronattus tarsalis species complex.
- For 20 years, researchers tracked spiders and ground beetles on the outskirts of Qianjiang, China to see how they were affected by the changing landscape.
- Using “third-generation” techniques, Stellwagen & Renberg have sequenced two very long spider glue-related genes from the orbweaver Argiope trifasciata. The discussion on /r/science sheds light on possible applications.
- By not combing its silk, the Australian cribellate spider Progradungula otwayensis can effectively produce a different kind of silk with different properties.
- Amblypygids (a.k.a. whip spiders, tailless whip scorpions, etc.) are covered in all kinds of fungus — but it doesn’t seem to be holding them back. Could it possibly help them blend in or repel parasites?
- Plants can indirectly defend themselves against pests by attracting predators like ants — or, perhaps, spiders? This tantalizing paper suggests that’s what’s going on with the tropical plant Palicourea rigida and the jumping spider Thiodina.
- In West Bengal, Myrmarachne jumping spiders live in close quarters with the ants they mimic [PDF], Oecophylla smaragdina. Strangely, the authors only found male spiders. This raises more questions…
- One species of garden spider, Argiope aurantia, is widespread, while its relative, Argiope florida, is found only in scrubland in the southeast US. In such places, the two can be found side by side, but it turns out that they feed on different types and sizes of prey.
- This is no ordinary beauty tutorial! This is a thorough guide to putting makeup on tiny jumping spiders. Make sure to watch the video!
- Love a paper that is exactly what it says on the tin: “Miniature spiders (with miniature brains) forget sooner”. With limited brain size, spiders sacrifice working memory rather than processing power.
- Scorpion venom could be used to fight cancer and drug-resistant bacteria. Obligatory IN MICE.
- Another spider myth has been put to rest. Remember that idea that daddy-long-legs have the most potent venom, but can’t bite you? Well, “daddy-long-legs” can mean several animals: (1) harvestmen, which don’t have venom; (2) crane flies, which aren’t even arachnids; and (3) cellar spiders, which this study shows have weak venom that can’t do more than give humans a mild sting.
- Spinybacked orbweavers are infected — with single stranded DNA viruses. One type is transmitted vertically, from parents to their offspring.
- Oh boy. There is some controversy over whether nephiline spiders should be their own family or not.
- The sheet-web weaver Porrhomma “is one of the most unpopular among arachnologists, because of the difficulty of species identification.” Poor Porrhomma. Simple diagrams aren’t enough, so the Růžičkas have resorted to…3D modelling. If you don’t want to see 3D models of spider vulvae, don’t click the link.
Our knowledge of which spiders live where is constantly being updated, thanks to finds like these.
- Several species of Agroeca (Liocranidae) have been found for the first time in China.
- The jumping spider Mexcala monstrata, whose genus is found throughout Africa and the Middle East, has been recorded for the first time in Egypt.
- Old specimens of the jumping spider genus Thyene have been redescribed, giving us a better a idea of what makes a Thyene a Thyene.
- Thanks to humans, several species of cellar spiders have spread all over the world. One such species is Spermophora senoculata, found for the first time in Sicily.
- A list of the seventeen pseudoscorpions of Ireland, which sounds like some kind of fantasy epic.
- All the chigger mites in the Natural History Museum of Geneva.
- Despite the lynx spider Oxyopes nilgiricus being named after India’s Nilgiri Mountains, it has been left off the checklists for 63 years.
- The checklist of Iberian spiders has been updated with a decade’s worth of data.
Over fifty newly discovered arachnid species were described in June. Some of the highlights are presented below.
- Several new species of crab spiders. These include three Tmarus from Sri Lanka, two Sidymella from South America, a Tarrocanus from India, and two Platythomisus from southeast Asia.
- A new armored spider from Colombia.
- Five new jumping spiders in the genus Jotus from Australia.
- Revisions of funnel webs from Iran and several countries in Africa led to the discovery of seven new species and the transfer of many species to Mystaria.
- Two new cobweb spiders (Theridiidae) from the Wuling Mountains, southern China.
- Three new species of Flexicrurum (Psilodercidae), a genus only found on Hainan Island, China; and two new species of Pimoa (Pimoidae) in southwest China.
- Two new Stenohya pseudoscorpions (Neobisiidae) from the Gaoligong Mountains in the highlands of Yunnan, China.
- A new species of curtain-web spider Masteria (Dipluridae) was found in a newly explored limestone cave in the Phillipines.
- Two new Conculus species (Anapidae) found in Indonesia and the Philippines; this is the first record of Conculus in southeast Asia.
- Finally, a new species, genus and family of spiders from Mexico and the USA has been described from specimens that live in ant nests. The species has been known for more than fifteen years, and its identity challenged many spider specialists until now. A detailed study of their morphology and DNA sequences led to the description of Myrmecicultoridae.