Facts about Spiders

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Spiders, other than scaring the daylights out of Ms.Moffat, are animals belonging to the Arachnida class. Spiders, of which there are about 40,000 species globally, are harmless creatures. Two infamous deadly types are the black widow and brown recluse. Although not a favourite of those who are squeamish, spiders do their bit for the environment by eating up pestiferous insects that infest foods and vectors of diseases (flies and mosquitoes).

1. The source of the word ‘˜spider’ is from old English, ‘˜ spithra’ which is similar to spinnan ( to spin).

2. Black widows (Latrodectus mactans) are ironically shy and retiring female spiders but in the habit of killing its mate, post-mating. Physically the females are 1.5 inch in width whereas the males are half this size. Their venom is more portent than that of rattle snakes and can be fatal to children and the old. Symptoms include tremors, nausea, vomiting, leg cramps, abdominal pain, profuse perspiration, loss of muscle tone and rise in blood pressure. The toxin can also cause breathing difficulties and unconsciousness.

3. One of the most common phobias is the fear of spiders called Arachnophobia. The source of this fear could be cultural or rooted in childhood experiences. Those who consume spiders as part of their diet will not have this fear as opposed to those who view it as non-edible insects. One of the ways of treating Arachnophobia is to slowly desensitize oneself to live spiders or virtual representations of spiders.

4. There are different kinds of spider silks created for different purposes. The most common silk produced by spiders is called the dragline silk that enables the spider to hang from the ceiling. It is possible to being stretched to 30% of its length before snapping. On the other hand, the bridgeline silk is used for hanging from the web while the web formed from spiraline has a 200% stretching capacity. 6

5. Although dragline silk is only one- tenth the diameter of human hair, on a weight for weight basis, it is stronger than steel.

6. The strength of dragline silk has been considered for medical, military and aviation purposes. Due to the impracticality of harvesting silk from spiders, other means of harvesting a similar structured silk have been researched including adding the DNA for dragline silk genes into goats . 8. These ventures have not taken off commercially. Nexia, the Canadian company which produced silk milk from goats was not commercially successful.

7. The silk produced by spiders is used to either entangle their pray or wrap their pray in order to immobilize them.

8. Spiders specifically tarantulas are considered street food delicacies in South-East Asia especially in Cambodia. 9

9. All spiders are considered venomous but less than 1 per cent of secreted venom is considered harmful to humans.

10.Young spiders are known to leave the nest by using silk to balloon themselves. Due to their light weight they are able to lift themselves to 10,000 feet off the ground. This action categorizes spiders as one of the highest altitude flyers in the animal world sans wings.

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