Thursday, September 25, 2014

Striking Spiders

Striking – arresting the attention and producing a vivid impression on the sight or the mind, attracting attention by reason of being unusual, extreme, or prominent, conspicuously attractive or impressive.

A dazzling Dark Fishing Spider, arresting the attention of an observer by virtue of her size, from the cephalothorax to the tip of the abdomen she is a mere 20 mm in length. Dolomedes tenebrosus can attain a body size of up to 26 mm with the legs spanning 90 mm but this one is deflated after laying her eggs. Like most Pisauridae (a.k.a. Nursery Web Spiders) she stands guard over her brood until they a bit older and better able to fend for themselves.

The spiderlings have already been through one molt and the pale exuviae can be seen littering the nursery.

A couple of closeups of the female, with one of her offspring clinging to her abdomen in the second photo.

A friend brought this wondrous Wolf Spider to me for identification, but unfortunately for the spider it was DOA when it arrived. The body length of this particular female Tigrosa aspersa was 23 mm and the legs measured 70 mm across, however, these "wolfies" can reach a respectable 30 mm.

The spider did indeed produce a vivid impression on the sight and the mind – the person who killed it woke up in the night and found the spider crawling on them; I wasn't informed what part of their anatomy. They immediately dispatched it (this was not the intent or one of the definitions of "striking" in the title), but under the circumstances it's pretty hard to fault a person for being startled ...

The arrangements spider's eyes are unique to each family, and this one's eye pattern is typical of the family Lycosidae.

A marvelous Marbled Orbweaver, in my opinion this is by far the most beautifully colored and patterned spider I have ever encountered. Araneus marmoreus is small compared to the foregoing two spiders, the body measures about 20 mm and the legs are relatively short, but it makes up visually what it lacks in sheer bulk – conspicuously attractive or impressive indeed!

The Marbled Orbweaver featured above is a female, and she's gravid and ready to lay her eggs any day to start the life cycle of her kind anew. On the other hand the female Longjawed Orbweaver (Tetragnatha spp) in the following photo won't likely get her chance to pass her genes on to the next generation, that opportunity now belongs to the small wasp, only about 3 mm in length, that's clinging to the underside of the spider.

The image was acquired under poor lighting conditions and is a bit out of focus but the wasp's ovipositor, ready to deliver its egg (or eggs?), is clearly visible in the photo. It's interesting to note that the wasp is in a "safe zone" and the hapless spider cannot reach it with its jaws.

The picture has been uploaded to BugGuide.Net where hopefully someone can identify the wasp. As of now I have no idea as to the wasp's species (Ichneumon, perhaps?) or life cycle – does it lay one egg per spider, or more? Will the spider be paralyzed by the hymenopteran's venom, or will it continue to go through the motions as the wasp larva (or larvae?) consume it from within? Whatever the story may be, like everything else in the world of nature we can be certain it's fascinating and compelling, possibly even (from our human viewpoint) bizarre ... which are all synonyms for the word "striking".