Spider and Prey Frozen in Amber

by Dan Stout


image Courtesy Oregon State University

The amazing piece of amber pictured here is the only known example of a spider actually fossilized in the process of attacking its prey.  Not only are the hairs of the spider and wings of the wasp perfectly preserved, the amber actually shows over a dozen intact threads of spider silk. 

Normally I'd come up with a creepy description of what we're looking at here, but the good people at Oregon State University beat me to it. 

“This was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended. The wasp was watching the spider just as it was about to be attacked, when tree resin flowed over and captured both of them.”

Read the whole article here.

by Dan Stout

Looking for Primary Source Spider Tales

by Dan Stout


I get a good portion of my web traffic from people looking for info about the legendary Congolese giant spider-- the J'ba Fofi. I can't say as I'm too shocked by that, since it's a story that so fascinated me that when I started writing a blog, most everything that came out was somehow related back to it.

Most of what I know of the legend comes from secondary sources, where someone has put together a summary of the different stories, usually with a line like, "For centuries there have been legends..." or "Many natives say...". For some time I've been wondering if there's any collections of the folklore and legends of the Baka people, and the Congo area in general. I'd love to see exactly what the original legnds were, whether Anansi, some variation, or something else all together.

Does anyone out there have any recommendations for such spider-oriented folklore or urban legends? If so, drop a note in the comments section!

   (As an aside, the best summation of secondary sources is easily Terrence Aym's article, "Possibility of the Existence of the Congolese Giant Spider". It's a great starting point for reading up on our large & legendary eight-legged friends. )

by Dan Stout

Spider Goats protested in Ottawa

by Dan Stout


Photo Credit: Ashley Burke/CBC

 

One of my favorite topics-- Spider Goats-- popped up in the news again recently.

According to this CBC article two of the Spider Goats rescued from the collapse of Nexia Biotechnologies spider silk program ended up on display at the Canada Agriculture Museum.  Apparently the two goats have been there for two years, pleasantly munching on snacks and being viewed by families and school expeditions. But this March a complaint was lodged by a part time anthropology professor. I'm not entirely sure what additional gravitas this is supposed to impart, but it seems to be the key reason that the article was written.

Pictured above, the goats are named Sugar and Spice (which is more family-friendly than my suggestions of Lady Arachnae and Web Spinner Gruff).  They are still on exhibit, if you'd like to go see them, and there are calls to protest by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, should they seem protest-worthy to you.

by Dan Stout

MonsterQuest episode about Giant Spiders

by Dan Stout


I've caught a couple episodes of the History Channel's MonsterQuest. It's a fun show with a casual, and usually intelligent, overview of various "mysterious creature" stories. They do a good job of preserving the fun and mystery of these tales while not straying completely into theoretical territory.

But somehow I had completely missed out on the episode about Giant Spiders. (I know, crazy, right?)

They mention several classic tales, including a reported 1938  encounter with a J'ba Fofi on a Congolese  road, and the widely-emailed image of a pair of camel spiders from Iraq. These stories are then used as a jumping off point for an investigation of whether giant spiders can be found, and a reality check about the urban legends surrounding camel spiders.

Of course, as I've mentioned previously, there is strong evidence that in order to grow to the kind of monstrous size described in this episode, a spider's physiology would have to be so altered that we would barely recognize it. Still, I can't help but love a good giant spider story.  

Recommended.

by Dan Stout