Apex


If apex means “top”, the world’s apex predator might just be a tiny spider. Meet Euophrys Omnisuperstes, ( Latin for “standing above everything” ) the Himalayan Jumping Spider,  highest known permanent resident life form on Earth. This quarter inch long, eight eyed, claw footed jumping spider capable of leaping distances 50 times its body length, thrives at elevations of 22,000 feet above sea level. Himalayan Jumping Spiders inhabit a realm so improbable, their only food source is insects carried by the wind.

Meet the Spider that Lives On Top of the World: the Himalayan Jumping Spider

For perspective, Mt. Everest south base camp in Nepal sits at 17,598 feet. At this elevation oxygen levels are 50% that of sea level. Worlds above the tree line, far beyond the domain of Snow Leopards, high above clusters of Nepalese Snub Nose Monkeys https://www.newscientist.com/article/2101954-secrets-of-how-primates-can-live-at-extreme-altitude-revealed/ whose only sustenance is lichen or rare thermal pool prisoners of high altitude hot springs, the Bailey’s snake https://reptiles.fandom.com/wiki/Thermophis_baileyi – tiny eight eyed jumping spiders wait for lunch to blow in on the wind. Why spider, why?

Make no mistake, spiders rule. Sure cockroaches survive underwater for half an hour, monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles to a miniscule patch of Mexican forest, but it’s the spider who stands above everything.

229 Species


What do 120 wasps, 34 sea slugs, 28 ants, 19 fish, 7 flowering plants, 7 spiders, 4 eels, 3 sharks, 2 water bears, 1 frog, 1 snake, 1 seahorse, 1 moss, and 1 liverwort plant have in common? All reside on a list of 229 new species identified in 2018 by the California Academy of Science.

Shannon Bennett, Academy chief of science said –

Biodiversity scientists estimate that less than 10 percent of species on Earth have been discovered. Academy scientists tirelessly explore near and far, from the familiar forests in our backyards to remote locations as deep as 500 feet beneath the ocean surface. Each species discovery may hold the key to groundbreaking innovations in science, technology, or society and helps us better understand the diversity of life that makes up thriving ecosystems. These new discoveries also highlight the critical role we play as stewards of our one, precious planet.”

The “Japan pig” seahorse is the size of a jelly bean. Cryptic in coloration, the new species blends perfectly into the algae-covered reefs of southeastern Japan where it clings tightly via tail to soft corals, feeding on plankton passersby. It sports a pair of wing-like protrusions on its neck, but unlike the half dozen other pygmy seahorses in the world, the Japan pig has just one pair rather than two. The function of these wing-like structures remains a mystery. Image via Calacademy.

Spiders with the fastest spin on Earth! Spiders from the Selenopidae family were recently discovered to have the fastest leg-driven turn of any animal on the planet. This year, 3 new species join the fast-spinning group, including one from Egypt. This species was originally collected in the 1800s but only recently recognized as new to science when a team of sicnetists discovered it deep in the collection of the Oxford Museum. Image via Calacademy.

Along the Samana Norte River in the Colombian Andes, where canyon walls angle so steeply to the water that humans rarely frequent the region, a flowering plant produces sky-blue berries each year. This new-to-science species thrives near fast-moving rivers that experience frequent flooding. How the plant is pollinated and its fruit dispersed remains a mystery, but the discoverers suspect the mature berry, which is spongy, might drop into the water, float downriver, and lodge into a new rocky crevice to sprout a new plant. The plant is already endangered given its small, fragmented range. A proposed hydroelectric dam also threatens to flood the region and fully submerge one of the few localities where this species grows. Image via Calacademy/

https://earthsky.org/earth/new-species-2018?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=69ba9c94d7-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-69ba9c94d7-393970565

Spider Beach


On the morning of September 19, 300 meters of shoreline in Aitoliko, Greece woke to a gossamer siege of Tetragnatha spider web. Commonly called stretch spiders for their elongated bodies, over 300 species of harmless Tetragnatha inhabit our world. Partial to low vegetation at waters edge, stretch spiders thrive on mosquitoes and water born insects. Every few years a perfect storm of warm moist weather and mosquito bloom spark a stretch spider orgy. But for carefree visual grandstanding, arachnid party-goers mating with wild abandon while gorging on mosquitoes would remain nature’s secret.

https://greece.greekreporter.com/2018/09/18/massive-spider-web-covers-an-entire-beach-in-greece-photos/

Plants and palm trees covered in a veil of spider webs

Plants and palm trees covered in a veil of spider webs

Plants covered in a veil of spider webs

 

Image result for tetragnatha spiders

Tetragnatha Spider

Catch And Release


A few minutes ago youngest son presented a wad of toilet paper. “Hey Mom, does this look like a black widow?” Before I could say “pretty sure it was before you squashed it to smithereens”, youngest son apologetically explained his act of arachnid annihilation. “Sitting on the toilet when it ran towards me, squashed it before I had time to think”. Trust me it wasn’t after you, went unspoken. Youngest son knew how I felt about killing spiders.

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Spider bites are extremely rare, truth is they want nothing to do with us. Spiders exist to control insect populations. House spiders control flies, snag mosquitoes, sideline beetles and trounce moths. Garden spiders feast on aphids ,control grubs and beetles, dissuade spider mites and crop destroying grasshoppers. But for spiders, ours would be a unrecognizable world. Like it or not, spiders matter.

It’s no secret I have a thing for spiders. Truth be told, the first thing I did after youngest son dispatched bathroom widow was check on kitchen widow. The sight of kitchen window widow’s shellacked body eased regret over bathroom widow’s demise. Well behaved spiders are welcome in my house, uppity ones are caught and released.

Catch and release contradicts human nature. Instinct commands our imperative to eradicate arachnid invaders. I get it, house spiders terrify most people. That said, next time a spider surprises you on the toilet, muster the fortitude to catch and release. All it takes is a glass and sheet of paper. Spiders aren’t after us, they mean us no harm. Trust me, catch and release feels great.