Welcome to the WEEKEND!!! I know you’re all excited to have a three-day wee … what’s that? It’s not a three-day weekend? Let me look at my calendar again … I could have sworn … oh … never mind. Well, let me start over … I know you’re all excited to have two days off from work! Yeah, kind of falls flat, doesn’t it? Still … spring is nearly here, so that is definitely something to be thankful for, don’t you think?
I start this morning’s Saturday Surprise sharing a bit of a personal story. You remember when I introduced you to the Significant Seven back in May of last year? Since then the Sig-Seven have become the Sig-Six, for Orange died last summer, at the ripe (for a cat) old age of 19. I mentioned that Isabella, Izzy for short, has serious issues, the most likely scenario being that she has the feline version of autism. She comes out from under the sofa several times a day, but all it takes is a look or a word to send her scurrying back under.
The other day, I was at the store buying the usual 50-pound bag of kibble when I spotted a toy. It was about 2-feet long, shaped like a wedge of cheese, with holes of varying sizes and two toy mice dangling from strings inside. Now, our cats have two laundry baskets filled with toys, plus a kitty condo, kitty beds, and … well, they are spoiled. But when I saw this toy, something just tapped me on the shoulder and said … Izzy will like this. It was on sale, so long story short, we now have a cheese wedge in the living room floor along with a myriad of other “kitty things”.
But I was right! Izzy does like it! See for yourself …Even better, though … she actually let Miss Goose brush her, for the very first time ever!So, perhaps she is beginning to get just a smidge braver?
I was doing my usual scan of news sources yesterday when I came across something in The Guardian that I thought would make a lovely Saturday surprise! Now, I know some of you have an aversion to things that walk on eight legs, but these are truly so gorgeous, so different, that even you will be enchanted. Well, all except perhaps the last one. This is the Blue-Legged Tarantula, only recently documented by arachnologists Ray Gabriel and Danniella Sherwood in the Journal of the British Tarantula Society (who knew there even was such a society?) Isn’t he beautiful? Malaysian naturalists, however, claim that they first photographed the spider in the wild and that the specimens were illegally removed from their habitat. A fight over a spider!
This Peacock parachute spider is huge – about 20 centimeters or 8 inches in diameter! He gets his name from his purply-blue, metallic legs and his habit of jumping down from trees. According to Matthew Robertson, senior keeper of invertebrates at ZSL London Zoo, this spider …
“Can deliver quite a painful bite as it parachutes on to the top of your head.”
Ummmm … maybe not, thank you anyway. They are extremely rare and indigenous only to a small area in India.
Peacock jumping spiders are extraordinarily colourful, with the additional draw – particularly compared with the peacock parachute spider – of being only a couple of millimetres long. According to the experts, jumping spiders behave much like dogs or cats. Hmmmm …
Mirror sequined spider
Robert Whyte, an Australian spider expert, first caught sight of this tiny spider when its sparkly abdomen caught the light like a disco ball. The silvery sheen is made of guanine, a digestive by-product. Says Mr. Whyte …
“Instead of excreting it all out into the environment through their poo, some of it excretes out onto the surface of the gut.”
Well, that’s rather … yuck … but it is a beautiful spider!
Red-legged golden-orb weaver spider
This spider – found in South Africa, Madagascar and elsewhere around the Indian Ocean – is not just four pairs of pretty legs. Like others in the Nephilinae subfamily, it is known for its webs of impressive structural stability, strong enough to entrap birds and even bats. The web also glows gold in the sun, hence the name.
This very large, very colourful spider resembles a wasp in order to protect itself from predators, although it is not dangerous itself. Its commitment to the aesthetic extends to its web, which has a wide, white zig-zag strip running down the middle for no clear functional purpose.
The crab spider isn’t quite as eclectic as some of the others, but I think it’s cute! Instead of spinning a web, it conceals itself within flowers to ambush its prey, changing its appearance to match. Clever little dude! Rather like a chameleon. According to Mr. Robertson …
“If they live on yellow flowers, they tend to be yellow. They sit there waiting for some poor unfortunate bee to come along, then they nab them. It’s quite grim.”
Ah, well … a spider’s got to eat, y’know.
And last, but not least, we have the Deserta wolf spider! These guys are a critically endangered species, and in 2016 a captive breeding program was set up at Bristol (UK, not Tennessee) Zoo with 25 individuals being captured and taken to the zoo, over 1000 spiderlings were produced in 2017 and it is hoped that some of these can be reintroduced to Desertas to boost populations.
And I also stumbled across an interesting tidbit positing that a fear of spiders is actually in our DNA …
Recent research has claimed that a fear of spiders is a survival trait written into our DNA. Dating back hundreds of thousands of years, the instinct to avoid arachnids developed as an evolutionary response to a dangerous threat, the academics suggest.
It could mean that arachnophobia, one of the most crippling of phobias, represents a finely tuned survival instinct. And it could date back to early human evolution in Africa, where spiders with very strong venom have existed millions of years ago.
Study leader Joshua New, of Columbia University in New York, said: ‘A number of spider species with potent, vertebrate specific venoms populated Africa long before hominoids and have co-existed there for tens of millions of years.
‘Humans were at perennial, unpredictable and significant risk of encountering highly venomous spiders in their ancestral environments.’
And on that note, I shall leave you to your weekend! Keep safe and enjoy it, however you spend it!