Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Top 5 Strangest Spiders

These amazing arachnids are probably some of the most bizarre invertebrates alive today. There's spiders that use their fangs to fence with rivals and even one species with its own scuba gear. These are my top 5 strangest spiders.

Diving Bell Spider, Argyroneta aquata

This incredible spider spends its entire life without putting a single one of its eight legs on dry land. They catch and eat prey, breed, rear young, grow up, moult, and spin silk underwater! Yet they don't have gills, instead they must every so often go to the surface to collect air. The air is trapped on hairs on the abdomen and back legs - in essence, the spider's own scuba gear! Not only this, but they spin orb-like webs attached to water plants and fill the web with air bubbles! This 'diving bell' is surely one of the most amazing things that any non-human animal has ever created. When the air in the diving bell begins to run out, the individual will dart up to the surface and collect more air on their hairs.
Whereas the larger male spends less time in his bell and hunts in the open water, the female waits for a prey item to brush the silk. Then she will scurry out, grab the prey, and drag it back into her bell to be consumed.

Whip Spider, Argyrodes colubrinus 

Looking more like a stick insect than a spider, this bizarre creature can be found in Australia. They come in various colour forms, including brown, cream, and green (as shown in the picture above).
They have a particularly interesting hunting method. They make silk 'snares' that hang down from their web and touch the floor. When a small insect or a wandering spider (the creature's favoured food) touches the snare, then the Whip Spider runs down and wraps it up in silk to consume later.
They keep their 40-50 green-yellow eggs in an egg sack that they will hang from a single, strong thread of silk.

Peacock Spider, Maratus volans

This is probably the most beautiful spider that I have ever seen. Not only is it a Jumping Spider, which are very strange anyway (just look at those eyes!), but this particular species has bizarre, colourful flaps of skin on its abdomen. As if that wasn't enough, it dances too! By lifting its abdomen, inflating the skin flaps, making clapping motions with its limbs, and doing a little dance, the male can impress a drab female.
Unlike many spiders, the Peacock females are exactly the same size as the males - 5mm long!
Like the Whip Spider, it can be found in Australia.
They are also known as Flying Spiders because one man claimed that he saw them using the colourful flaps to glide from branch to branch! Perhaps he mistook the enormous leaps that characterise Jumping Spiders for gliding.

Kerengga Ant-like Jumper, Myrmarachne plataleoides

 No, this spider isn't named after an article of clothing. The 'Jumper' part of the name just means Jumping Spider. The two images that I have shown look like quite different species. The first image looks like an ant, whereas the second is more like an alien. They're actually both the same species and are mimicking Weaver Ants, also known as Kerenggas - hence the name. The first image shows a female Kerengga Ant-like Jumper and the second shows a male, which is supposed to be mimicking an ant carrying another smaller one. But why are these odd spiders mimicking ants in the first place? Well, Weaver Ants are not only poisonous but also have a rather painful bite, so most predators leave them well alone. By pretending to be an ant, the spiders are hardly ever bothered by predators.
These oddities can be found in India, China, and South-East Asia. The males have large fangs hidden in the extended mouth parts, which they use like swords to fence with other males for dominance.

Assassin Spider, Archaeidae

This bizarre family of spiders specializes in preying on other spiders, as you can see in the image above. Assassin Spiders have special adaptations to cope with their diet. When an Assassin finds a spider web, it will coax the owner closer by stroking its web. When the spider gets close enough, the spider will pounce, using its long neck to fling its head forward and grab the prey. Then it will inject its venom and hold the prey at a safe distance in its mandibles while it waits for the venom to set in.
These 2-8 mm long spiders can be found in Australia, South Africa, and Magagascar.
Interestingly, 40 million year old Assassin Spiders have been found in fossilized amber. Until a species was discovered on Madagascar in 1818, it was actually thought that the family was extinct!

I hope that you've enjoyed today's post. And remember that spiders aren't something to be afraid of but should be an object of fascination and awe.

Until next time, keep on the wild side!