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Sunday, 12 June 2016


I was arranging things in the store when a small scene caught my eyes in the lower corner of the room. I dropped what I carried, squatted and pulled out my weapon–my camera phone–to video. It was a fairly small-size spider capturing a long and black, odour-emitting soldier ant. I watched intently as it spun its web with dexterity. At first, I had thought it was striking the ant with its legs but after a close look, I noticed it was using the legs to spin more webs around the big prey, carefully avoiding the mandibles of the ant (claws). I had to endure the defensive foul smell from the ant just to watch a smaller creature do that to one I’d consider its senior. After some minutes, the ant could only wriggle in defense and was wrapped up in silk. I couldn’t stand the smell anymore so I tapped out. I have to say, it was a thrilling experience. I couldn’t help wondering what made the spider such a successful predator and how a big headed ant could fall an easy prey. Let’s unravel some unique features of the amazing spider, and, oh yes, I’ll also tell you how to become a spider man. Finally, Peter Parker will have a sibling. Thank me later.

For those of you with Arachnophobia (the fear of spiders), you're not alone. A celeb as Justin Timberlake is also in that shoe. You'll have to be strong enough to read through this as you'll learn a couple of things. Now, let's get started. Spiders are invertebrates meaning they don’t have backbones, which I’m sure you already know and there are up to 40,000 different species of them! Let me surprise you: spiders are not insects, the bodies of spiders divide into two parts (a fused head and thorax and an abdomen), and spiders have eight legs and eight eyes; they lack antennae and wings. In contrast, the bodies of insects form three parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), and insects have six legs, two eyes, two antennae, and, typically, four wings. Did you see that! Eight eyes. Having six more eyes round your head could be really freaky. Imagine going to the movies with your date and he’s checking out the girl behind, not the screen in front.

Now, this is why you won’t see spiders eating plants in your Mom’s vegetable garden. All spiders are carnivorous (feeding mainly on the flesh of other animals). Spiders eat insects and sometimes other arthropods (invertebrate animals with jointed limbs, segmented bodies, and hard shells known as exoskeletons), including other spiders. Scientists often divide spiders into two types: web spiders and ground spiders. Web spiders produce webs to capture prey, while ground spiders hunt prey directly without using a web. Almost all spiders use poison glands to kill or paralyze their prey or to defend themselves. You can imagine; small but mighty.If spiders were a bit bigger, I think they’d have been competing with lions for the king of the jungle.

Contrary to popular belief, most spider bites are not dangerous to humans. Of the 40,000 species of spiders, only about 30 species produce bites that may cause illness. Spiders rarely attack humans unless they feel threatened, and if they do bite, the wound is rarely serious. There is absolutely no reason to kill any spider or to call an exterminator if you have spiders in your house. As an old English saying goes, “If you want to live and thrive, let a spider run alive!” In other words, if you see a spider on your shirt, don’t scream omg! Just take a quick selfie with two fingers up. 

Now, let’s find out some really interesting facts. When a spider catches its prey, it utilizes a pair of tiny “pocket knives”, located in front of the mouth opening, known as the chelicerae. Each chelicera has a sharp fang that swings out of its resting position to stab into the victim. Near the tip of the fang is a duct opening that comes from a poison gland. The fang acts like a hypodermic needle—it ejects venom from the poison gland and delivers it into the prey. I’m glad I did this research. I was thinking the spider used only its web to capture and weaken that big arse soldier ant. Now, I know it used poison too.

Let’s throw some light on this spider poison. Most spiders have a pair of poison glands that lie within the cephalothorax. Don’t sweat over the big name; it’s just the front body part. I guess you weren’t a big fan of biology. Back to business: each bulb-like poison gland produces and stores toxin. A muscle spirals around the gland. When this muscle contracts, it squeezes poison from the gland through a duct into the fangs of the chelicerae, which then pass the poison into the prey. I think we got a similar muscle too–contract and release. You can only ask me “where?” if you don’t pass out poo. 

And here is what we don’t have in common: unlike human hair, each spider hair found on the legs acts as a sensory organ, sensitive to touch and vibration. More than 30 muscles control the movement of each leg. In addition, some joints of the leg move by the hydraulic action of body fluid. The tips of the legs have two or three small claws that are used for climbing or grasping the spider’s silk thread. Many ground spiders have specialized adhesive hairs beneath their claws, known as claw tufts or scopulae. These claw tufts enable the spiders to walk sure-footedly on smooth, vertical surfaces—even upside down on glass. I have to say, nature took time to bless a small creature with these admirable features. Come to imagine it, if humans could do the upside down walk, then that could have replaced going down on one knee for men, while proposing marriage.

Let’s check out how the sensory organs work in spiders. Most spiders are nocturnal, and as a result they use their other senses more than they use their eyesight, which is not well developed. This must be really sad; all eight eyes and still, poor vision. But there must be other strong points. Let’s find out. In addition to the thousands of hairs found on the palps and legs that are highly sensitive to touch and vibrations, spiders also have hairs on their feet that they use to taste things. Unbelievable! Tasting food with the legs, Mr. Spider you never stop to amaze us.

Most spiders have four pairs of simple eyes (eyes with a single lens) that are located on the front of the cephalothorax. The eyes are usually grouped into two or three rows that form specific patterns in different spider families. Okay, this is worth noting the eyes don’t go round their head as I had imagined. They’re all lazily packed in front. 

I know you’re curious about the whole spider web formation process. I hope you don’t still remain in the dark after this paragraph. Let’s start from the abdomen. The spider’s abdomen is soft and sac-like. On the underside of the tip of the abdomen are three pairs of spinnerets. Each spinneret is studded with many fine, hair-like tubes called spigots, which produce a variety of silk threads. The spigots lead to several large silk glands inside the abdomen. Silk is formed as a liquid inside these abdominal glands. As the silk is drawn out through the spigots, protein molecules within the silk line up parallel to one another, causing the silk to harden and form strong, elastic filaments. The hardening of silk results from the drawing-out process through the spigots, not from exposure to air, as is commonly believed. Several silk threads produced by different spigots may fuse to form a stronger one. Spinnerets are actually shortened limbs. They can move to place silk strands in precise locations when the spider builds a web or wraps prey in silk. That was a bit complex. If you don’t get anything, just remember that errmm…okay, remember that the silk that makes the web comes from silk glands in the abdomen.

Pay close attention here as this will be a big revelation to you. Imagine going on the seat of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire TV Show and you’re asked a question for N5m, “What colour of blood do spiders have?” Right now, I’ll tell you the answer but promise to send me only 10% of the money if it turns out like that. Spider blood, also known as hemolymph, contains many blood cells with oxygen-carrying pigments called hemocyanin, which give the blood a light blue colour. In contrast, the primary components of human blood are red blood cells carrying the red pigment hemoglobin. Spider blood also contains many other types of blood cells that play a role comparable to that of the white blood cells of humans. Among other functions, these cells play a role in blood clotting after an injury. 

Who said spiders don’t have hearts? The spider’s long, tubular heart lies toward the back side of the abdomen. When the heart contracts, it pumps blood forward into the cephalothorax and backward into the abdomen. Blood travels through closed tubes, or arteries, into spaces in the body cavity. From these spaces the blood travels to the book lungs, where it releases carbon dioxide and picks up a fresh supply of oxygen before returning to the heart. So, next time you crush a spider, remember you’ve broken an innocent heart.

You may also have wondered like me, “How do these creatures digest preys much bigger than them?” Spider digestion is unusual in that it begins outside of the spider’s body. When a spider captures an insect or other animal, it uses its chelicerae (remember this name? the pair that looks like pocket knives? Okay, let’s continue…) to pierce the prey and inject poison into the wound to paralyze or kill the animal. The spider then vomits juices containing digestive enzymes into the wound of the victim to break down and liquefy its body tissue. This liquefied tissue is then drawn through the spider’s mouth and into its body by the sucking action of the stomach. Two mechanical filters in the mouth prevent solid food particles from passing into the digestive system. 

From the stomach, food passes into the midgut, which branches throughout the entire body. Enzymes secreted by the midgut further break down the liquefied food into nutrient molecules small enough to pass through the walls of the midgut into the blood. Nutrients can be stored for a long time in the spider’s extensive digestive system, enabling many spiders to go for weeks or even months without the need to catch any prey. Next time, you won’t see spiders as innocent, web-spinning creatures. I like the food-reserving part. That would be really advantageous for some set of people, especially the ones who rely on social ceremonies for their meals.

Humans have brains, so do spiders. A spider’s brain is relatively highly developed, enabling spiders to easily adapt to changes in their environment. Some scientists believe spiders can learn, and some have observed that spiders can remember where in their web they have stored captured prey; if the prey is removed, the spiders will continue searching for it in the same place for hours. Interesting. I know some humans that do same, dwelling too long in the same sad spot instead of moving on. 

Talking about reproduction, spiders do that thing too, just that they don’t cuddle under blankets and turn off the lights like the old school way. Just like us, the mature male has two sperm-producing testes. The female spider also has two egg-producing ovaries. After the male transfers sperm cells into the female’s genital opening located on her abdomen, they are stored, sometimes for months, in tiny receptacles. These sperm cells fertilize the female’s egg cells just before she deposits her eggs into a silky cocoon. 

The life cycle of the spider consists of four stages: egg, larva, young spider, known as a nymph or spiderling, and adult. Like insects, spiders grow only by molting, a process that involves periodically shedding their exoskeleton. In each molting stage, young spiderlings resemble tiny adults, a process known as incomplete metamorphosis. 

Just before wrapping it up, let me shake you up a little. some spiders should actually make you worried. According to Guinness World Records, the Brazilian Wandering Spider is officially the world's most venomous spider. it can deliver venom potent as that of many deadly snake species and the effects are similar. The symptoms include loss of muscle control which leads to breathing problems. In a single case, a single spider was responsible for the death of two children in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Now, there's some new for men who patronize Viagra. The venom can also cause hours of hard on. Yes, it can cause up to four hours of erection, but you 'll have to swallow the pain that comes with it. Hey, don't fret, there's an antivenom for it. We have bigger threats like Boko Haram, Niger Delta Avengers and ISIS to worry about. Besides, it's estimated that throughout the 20th century, spiders were responsible for about 100 deaths globally. 
The Brazilian Wandering Spider

Yeah, that should do for spiders. I’m sure you’ve acquired additional knowledge about the arachnid. Thank me later. Yes, I said I’ll expose the secret of being a spider-man: imagine a world where you can spin webs, climb high buildings, fling yourself many meters above ground level, hang on walls upside down, do whatever you like—it’s possible. Please hold on while I google it. 

*Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


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