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The world’s spider population could eat every human being in a year
03.28.2017
03:17 pm
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If you’re scared of spiders, don’t read this post.

Seriously, don’t read this.

The great evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane once wrote of “our Creator” that he “would appear as endowed with a passion ... for beetles ... for the simple reason that there are nearly 300,000 species of beetle known ... as compared with somewhat less than 9,000 species of birds and a little over 10,000 species of mammals.”

Well, God may like beetles, he also has an inordinate fondness for spiders, for there are very, very many of them.

A pair of biological researchers, Martin Nyffeler at the University of Basel in Switzerland and Klaus Birkhofer of Lund University in Sweden, recently published some fascinating findings involving the biomass of spiders in The Science of Nature earlier this month.

If you were to add up all the spiders in the world, they would collectively weigh 29 million tons. Nyffeler and Birkhofer attempted to measure the amount of food spiders consume in a given year. As you know, spiders subsist largely on insects, but it does happen sometimes that spiders eat lizards, birds, and even small mammals.

According to the two biologists, all of the spiders on the earth consume somewhere between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey in any 12-month period. Just in case you’re insufficiently impressed by the big numbers being thrown around, the quantity of meat and fish that humans consume every year is around 400 million tons. Therefore, it’s quite possible that the world’s spiders are eating more animal biomass than humans are.

It gets worse.

How much do you think that all human biomass weighs? According to estimates, the total weight of all human adults is 287 million tons, and even if you add in all of the children in the world, you still don’t reach 400 million tons, which is the low end of the estimate for how much spiders eat in a year.

Is there a spider in your house? Is he watching you? If so, what is he thinking about?

If spiders ever get their act together, we’re fuuuucked.
 
via Wonkblog

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
99 million year-old erect spider penis has been discovered
Spiders ‘tune’ their webs, just like guitar strings

Posted by Martin Schneider
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03.28.2017
03:17 pm
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Spiders ‘tune’ their webs, just like guitar strings
09.14.2016
12:56 pm
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A team of researchers from the United Kingdom and Spain has demonstrated that spiders are capable of tuning their webs for the purpose of receiving information about the local environment, including the presence of prey and potential mates.

Similar to the strings of a finely tuned instrument, every strand of spider silk conveys vibrations across a wide range of frequencies over the span of a web. Spiders require a system like this to detect the presence of prey and mates, as their visual acuity is very low.

The general phenomenon has been understood by scientists for some time; what wasn’t clear were the precise characteristics of these vibrations or (more to the point) whether spiders exercised control over the practice. Researchers from Oxford University and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid have released a study, available in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, that looks into the material properties of spider webs and the way that vibrations propagate through the silken strands. The team has shown that spiders do in fact tune their webs to transmit specific messages. The paper’s title is “Tuning the Instrument: Sonic Properties in the Spider’s Web.”
 

 
The researchers used lasers to measure the tiny vibrations, isolating three particular features that allow spiders to turn their webs into data transmitters: web tension, silk stiffness, and overall web architecture. It turns out that spiders are capable of manipulating all three of these characteristics.

Spiders “tune” the waves that emanate from the web by adjusting the web’s tension and the stiffness of the web’s outer rim and spokes, also known as the dragline. In fact, spider webs are so customizable, the researchers hypothesize that some properties of silk evolved for this very purpose. Quoting from the paper’s abstract:
 

[W]e propose that dragline silk supercontraction may have evolved as a control mechanism for these multifunctional fibres. The various degrees of active influence on web engineering reveals the extraordinary ability of spiders to shape the physical properties of their self-made materials and architectures to affect biological functionality, balancing trade-offs between structural and sensory functions.

 
Unsurprisingly, the cunning evolved knowledge that a spider uses to construct its web far exceeds a simple “hope for the best“ model. Spiders actually tweak their webs to ensure the propagation of specific vibrations. The primary purpose of a web is to trap prey, but the structure of the web is optimized to capture important information about the area. Spiders constructing and then fine-tune their webs to act as a multi-function device.
 
via Gizmodo

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
99 million year-old erect spider penis has been discovered
What if Spider-Man was scientifically accurate? (NSFW)

Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.14.2016
12:56 pm
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Jack and cobra anyone? Whiskey & vodka infused with tarantulas, giant centipedes, snakes & toads


Vodka infused with a giant venomous tropical centipede by ‘Thailand Unique.’
 
I cannot tell a lie—I had a hard time blogging about these insect and amphibian-infused bottles of booze made by Thailand Unique as just looking at them made my lunch churn rather restlessly in my stomach. Never mind the thought of actually imbibing a bottle of vodka that had been infused with a giant venomous tropical centipede. Yikes.

These bug and arachnid-enhanced speciality alcohols are the products of Thailand Unique (based in Udon Thani, Thailand) a company that caters to the the world’s “growing numbers of “entomophagists” otherwise known as humans who enjoy consuming insects. They carry a large variety of infused vodka and whiskey that has been enhanced with everything from bugs to cobras and even toads. Some of these creatures, it is claimed, have healing and medicinal properties. The centipede whiskey is used in parts of Southeast Asia as an aphrodisiac and according to Thailand Unique could also help ease muscular and back pain. (Do not mistake this post for medical advice, okay?)

If you’re not a drinker (or just gave up drinking after reading all this, like I almost did—close call) Thailand Unique also offers various foodstuffs made from a variety of creepy-crawlers such as edible canned tarantula, earthworm jerky, pasta made from silkworms (it’s also gluten free!) and the “acquired taste” of these “seasoned to taste,” “roasted and dehydrated “dung beetles” which are harvested in northeast Thailand during the monsoon season. If you’re not an aspiring etymologist, the dung beetle feeds on “nutrient rich” Water Buffalo poop. Gaaa!

If you’re interested in obtaining any of Thailand Unique’s products—they sure live up to their name, don’t they?—it will take anywhere from two-weeks to two months depending on the shipping option you choose. Many of the infused vodkas and whiskeys are currently sold out, mostly due to the fact that many of the things made by the company take several months to prepare for market. Their “Armor Tail Scorpion” vodka (which was triple distilled and steeped for months allowing the scorpion to infuse the liquid with a “unique woody taste”) is in stock and can be yours for about $17.46 via registered airmail to the U.S.
 

Tarantula infused vodka.
 

Longhorn beetle-infused vodka.
 
More yucky things after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Cherrybomb
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09.12.2016
09:11 am
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New black tarantula spider species discovered near Folsom Prison is named after Johnny Cash
02.08.2016
08:39 am
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Johnny Cash and Aphonopelma johnnycashi
Johnny Cash and his eight-legged namesake tarantula spider, Aphonopelma johnnycashi

Aphonopelma johnnycashi is a new species of black tarantula spider that was just discovered roaming the hills near Folsom State Prison. The lockdown, near Sacramento, CA, is where Johnny Cash performed two historic shows inside the walls of the still operational correctional facility in 1968, captured on the iconic album, At Folsom Prison.
 
Aphonopelma johnnycashi
Aphonopelma johnnycashi
 
According to Biologist Chris Hamilton of the Florida Museum of Natural History, Aphonopelma johnnycashi was one of fourteen new tarantula species that were discovered in and around western Sierra Nevada mountains. The males of the species are predominately black and while there is no word on how big Cash’s eight-legged namesake is, Hamilton (who also sports a Johnny Cash tattoo, because science), had this to say about the newest arachnid to be named after rock and roll royalty:

Then once we looked at the genomics and looked at some of the ecological constraints, we could see this species was pretty unique and independent from the others that it’s closely related to.

Which fittingly sounds very much much like the Man in Black himself.

After the jump,Johnny Cash sings “Folsom Prison Blues”...

READ ON
Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.08.2016
08:39 am
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99 million year-old erect spider penis has been discovered
02.03.2016
11:29 am
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“How do you say “Ron Jeremy” in Latin?”

An arachnid encased in amber was found in a rather, er, comprising position to say the least. The discovery was made in Burma.

A harvestman of the species Halitherses grimaldii was discovered sporting a massive erection, a position it had been stuck in for the past 99 million years. What’s more, the creature was so uniquely endowed that scientists declared the find a brand new family of arachnids — a move based mostly on the shape of its penis

Apparently the outsized spider penis is like no other:

The researchers used photography and 3-D imaging to study the preserved harvestman, focusing special attention on the penis, which extended to almost half the length of the unfortunate male’s body. The erect appendage possesses a distinctively heart-shaped head and a twisted tip, meant for delivering sperm to females via a hole near their mouth.

Sadly, there was no female partner found near the arachnid. Scientist speculate that perhaps the two were separated during the throes of passion or that the spider’s big ol’ erection was due to increased blood pressure while trying to escape the sticky resin. Whatever the case, I feel bad for anything that’s had a 99-million-year-old priapic problem. Yikes! Talk about painful…

Via Discover Magazine and h/t Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley
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02.03.2016
11:29 am
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