Friday, February 13, 2009

Dancing Talking Spider!

The star of this show is the incredible Araneus diadematus

I know what you might be thinking, I used a video edit program to match up the spider's movement to my voice. However, had I have done that.. do you really think that I would have chosen to say what I said. This is RAW footage as you can see from the overexposure. I had no time to set my video mode correctly for this one. Timed exactly and caught on video by accident while I was taking stills with a Kodak camera. I used the video function to show the spider and purely by accident realized that every time I spoke she shook her web and moved her legs! This of course was a response. Spiders do not have ears as we know them, however the slightest of vibrations on there webs or leg hairs can cause them to quickly respond and investigate as it may mean for her.. a meal. When she taps the web, she's using a kind of "sonar" in the web. Females listen for the right sequence of taps on there web made by a male of the correct species. This way they don't get eaten. Before a spider goes for a kill, she will check out as much as possible what she's going for. So in effect, she's sending a "sonar ping" through her web. These taps bounce back differently if anything is in the web. Spiders have an extra ordinary ability to remember things. This same species even shocked the scientific community when they systematically learned how to build webs in 0g orbit and a completely new web-building strategy was needed. They adapted quickly in the Space shuttle and built perfect webs after some trail and error.

She dances to nearly every word I say with her lighting reflexes. This was originally a large video that showed me capturing a spider in my aunts house. I used a new video edit program to add the text and convert it to an internet-compatible file. NO other modifications where made. Not every spider even of this species will do this so on demand. Spiders do have there own personalities there is no question. Usually you can only do this a couple of times before a spider gets wise and afraid climbing or dropping out of the web. This one however, seemed to like to dance to my voice!

An example of the "drop technique" used by many species of spiders. Often used by our hero here, A. diadematus. This is another shot of the same species of spider. This time she's playing dead after having dropped out of her web. A quick defense. It is not a good idea to handle spiders like this however. First off she will roll around in your hand in a ball like that but she may be injured if your not very careful. And last but not least, this is the time when a spider is most likely to bite in self defense. They are not considered dangerous to humans by anyone’s standards, but one should always be careful as you never know about allergies and you should also consider that the spider is a living thing which belongs safe in her web. Outside of it.. she has to build a new one. Catch one too small, and she may not have the energy to rebuild a new one.

Also called the "cross spider" and garden spider. These are among the safest spiders. Although I recomend NEVER handleing spiders, if you were to get bit by this one, the most you would get would be about 1/10th of a bee sting. They are not very agressive and play an important role in insect population control.

Since web builders have such bad eyesight, they almost completely really upon vibrations to tell what kind of pray is in there web and what's going on. If they detect something dangerous, they will not approach, or may even cut it loose. I've seen them pluck objects like dead leaves from there webs without even a test bite. They know what's going on. So in this case, the feel of her web memorized, she's confused by it's vibration when I talk. So she wonders what's going on. Both as a warning to other spiders and to investigate where the vibrations are.. she sends out her "pings" every time I talk. Unable to isolate what direction they are coming from she becomes confused and on guard. I could have kept doing this for a while, but sooner or later she would have tired of it.

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