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Impurest's guide to Animals #21 - Golden Orb Weaver

Once again we have another Tuesday release. Last week the mysterious jellyfish Stygiomedusa was skirting around the edges of the spotlight. This week a far more fear inspiring creature is being examined. Hope you enjoy.

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Issue #21 - Golden Orb Weaver

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Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Arthropoda

Class - Arachnida

Order - Aranae

Family - Nephilidae

Genus - Nephila

Species - plumipes

Related Species -The Golden Orb Weaver is one of over 150 spiders belonging to the genus Nephila (1)

Range - Nephila plumipes is found in the Australian state of Queensland and throughout Indonesia

Web of Gold

Golden Orb Weavers are large web building species that are easily recognised due to the females large size (7cm) and the yellow and black banding across the abdomen. The species builds large webs, of up to five meters across from golden silk to catch prey and store food for later consumption. Only the females build webs, the tiny kleptoparasitic males steal uneaten food from the web he lives in (2). The University Record Online). The silk that creates the web is golden due to high concentrations of Xanthurenic acid, it is theorised the chemical composition repels ants that would otherwise raid the spiders web.

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Golden Orb Weavers are ambush predators, waiting for prey to impact with the web. Those creatures who make contact are unlikely to escape, between the spiders neurotoxic venom and the robustness of the web there is little escape. While insects are the main prey the Golden Orb Weaver isn't a fussy feeder, with evidence of birds and even Brown Tree Snakes (Boiga irregularis) being caught and eaten by these spiders (3). The Golden Orb Weaver doesn't get things all her own way, spiders from the genus Argyrodes infest the web and steal food from the larger spider.

When it comes to mating the male Golden Orb Weaver approaches the female from behind and gently massages her back in order to appease her. After this he passes a packet of sperm to her before retreating to the edge of the web. The female will then dig a hole under the web and lay her eggs, dying shortly afterwards. The spiderlings, after hatching disperse across the forest floor, with the females ascending trees to build their own webs.

Five Fun Golden Orb Weaver Facts

The genus Nephila is the oldest extant spider genus, with fossil remains dating back to the Jurassic Period (4)

Despite containing the same toxins as the Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus sp) the bite from a Golden Orb Weaver is not dangerous unless the person suffers from an allergic reaction

In fact the Golden Orb Weaver may shortly be saving lives. The silk is being used as 'biological scaffolding' to aid in tissue regeneration in injured soldiers

The silk is so strong that it is used in some parts of Indonesia as biodegradable fishing line.

The silk of over a million Golden Orb Weavers (and six years of human weaving) was used to create a golden cape. The garment is 2m wide and is on display in the London Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Gallagher, Terry. "Giant 'gentle spiders' collected in Taiwan for study at U-M-Dearborn

3 - Moran, Lee (25 April 2012). "Arachnophobes look away now! Incredible footage shows the moment a spider ate a snake for breakfast". The Daily Mail

4 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13134505

Picture References

1 - http://www.dhushara.com/paradoxhtm/spiders/neph.jpg

2 - http://i53.photobucket.com/albums/g62/TigerQuoll/Australian%20Wildlife/867215-3-lunch-is-served-nephila-pl.jpg

3 - http://www.designboom.com/weblog/images/images_2/andrea/miscellaneous/goldenspider01.jpg

Hope you guys enjoyed the antics of the gleaming Golden Orb Weaver. As always drop me a comment and be sure to check out Impurest's Bestiary for former issues.

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

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