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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Spider - spiderman and ...... ‘Aptostichus barackobamai’ - what >?

Spiders (order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other orders of organisms.  Spiders are found worldwide on every continent except for Antarctica.   I had in an article posted about Guam and the large spiders that were found in a consignment -  which was instructed to remain docked on board the ship in the harbour area. 

To me, more interesting was the ‘Spider Camera’ used in IPL matches at Chepauk . Spider camera is an  aerial device that is suspended with the help of cables tied to the floodlight pillars, the spider cam is meant to enhance the television viewing experience for those who prefer watching the match in the comforts of their homes. The idea is to keep moving the camera continuously to cover all angles and capture every vital moment in the game, thereby making the live telecast of a match much more interesting.  The four pronged cables allows the camera to move both vertically and horizontally over a predetermined area.  The name "Spidercam" is a trademark.

Children know better, ‘Spider-Man’ – the fictional character, a comic book superhero that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. Created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko, he first appeared in 1962. Spider-Man's creators gave him super strength and agility, the ability to cling to most surfaces, shoot spider-webs using wrist-mounted devices of his own invention (which he called "web-shooters"), and react to danger quickly with his "spider-sense", enabling him to combat his foes.

It is unlikely that most of us eer heard of ‘Aptostichus barackobamai’ – a trapdoor spider named after the US President.   Daily Mail years back reported that researchers in America  revealed 33 new species of trapdoor spider, including Aptostichus barackobamai, named for Barack Obama. The President is believed to be a fan of Spiderman, and was earlier  pictured in the Whitehouse playing with a young fan.  The new creatures were all found in the American Southwest, and is the largest ever find in the secretive family which hides underground in specially built burrows with a silk trapdoor.

Trapdoor spiders are rarely seen because they live their lives in below-ground burrows that are covered by trapdoors. Made by the spider using mixtures of soil, sand, and/or plant material, and silk, the trapdoor serves to hide the spider when it forages for meals at the burrow entrance, usually at night. The discovery was made by researchers at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History and Department of Biological Sciences.

The newly found genus includes such notable species as Aptostichus barackobamai,  named for Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, and reputed fan of Spiderman comics; Aptostichus edwardabbeyi, named for environmentalist and author Edward Abbey (1927-1989); Aptostichus bonoi from Joshua Tree National Park, named for the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2; Aptostichus pennjillettei named for illusionist and intellectual Penn Jillette; Aptostichus chavezi, named for Mexican American and civil rights and labor activist César Chávez (1927-1993).

Then there is the astonishing ‘fake spider’ – not a genus but the amazing way of Amazonian arachnid avoiding attack by building a double of itself.  Daily Mail in Dec 2012 reported of a  tiny spider that builds much bigger elaborate decoy spiders and hangs them in its web to fool predators has been discovered in the Peruvian Amazon. The artful arthropod crafts its decoys from dead insects, debris and leaves in what scientists suspect is a defence mechanism to avoid being eaten. It is believed to be a new species of Cyclosa, a genus which includes other sculpting arachnids but none of which of which have been observed to build replicas with multiple, spidery legs.

Biologist and science teacher Phil Torres discovered the apparently novel spider in September as he led tourists in a floodplain surrounding Peru's Tambopata Research Centre. 'From afar, it appears to be a medium sized spider about an inch across, possibly dead and dried out, hanging in the center of a spider web along the side of the trail,' he wrote in a blog post for eco-tourism firm Rainforest Expeditions. Such sights are not out of the ordinary for the Amazon, he writes, but as he approached the apparently decomposing arthropod it began to wobble back and forth as it it was alive.

'It turns out the master designer behind this somewhat creepy form is in fact a tiny spider' – even Even among the decoy-building species of Cyclosa,  it is stated that  decoys with legs and the web-shaking behaviour have not been observed before.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

4th Dec 2014.

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