Feeds

BAT-GOBBLING urban SPIDER QUEENS swell to ENORMOUS SIZE

But they'd lose a deathmatch against the coming Humvee-sized, armoured Arctic ones

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

If you're a city-dweller who thinks spiders have gotten bigger over your lifetime, you might just be right, according to boffins from Sydney University.

Looking at the harmless but impressive Oz arachnid Nephila plumipes – the Golden Orb-Weaver – they've found that urban specimens are fatter than their country cousins.

The research, led by Sydney University biological sciences PhD candidate Elizabeth Lowe, found that female orb-weavers living in the concrete canyons were both larger – nearly twice as big in the extreme cases – and had bigger ovaries than relatives in the bush.

The reason Lowe focussed on the females is that Nephila plumipes have a huge variation between male and female. The female shown in the photo below is the web-maker, and they can grow up to 4cm (body length), while the male is a vanishingly-small 5mm.

Several males will often hang at the fringes of one female's web in the hope of the traditional spider's successful hookup: copulation followed by consumption.

The difference between city and bush specimens was quite startling, as Lowe's photo below of the smallest and largest specimens in her study shows.

Liz Lowe with Golden Orb-Weaver

Researcher Elizabeth Lowe

examines a Golden Orb-Weaver

Image: Elizabeth Lowe,

from The Conversation

Lowe reckons a couple of factors might be at play here: the lights of the city probably attract prey into the webs, and that along with the urban heat island means the spiders can put more of their energy into growth and reproduction rather than to staying warm and catching food.

As Lowe writes in this piece (co-authored by associate professor Dieter Hochuli) at The Conversation: “Spiders help stop insect populations getting out of control, and are also a sign that nature in cities is more resilient than we might think”.

Smallest and biggest specimens

A bush specimen and a city specimen

Image: Liz Lowe. From The Conversation

OK, it's not a threat to humans, but the Australian Museum says its webs have been known to trap birds or bats that the meat-eating spider will include in its diet.

The museum also has this impressive image of what happens when lots of the orb-weavers get together to weave their webs. ®

Web note

El Reg directs your attention to our coverage of the upcoming plague of enormous, Humvee-sized, BULLETPROOF meat-eating spiders that will be prowling the Arctic circle come 2060 like vast arachnid panzers, at least according to Danish boffins.

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.