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Monday, May 12, 2008

Nostalgia

I have always found animals and birds fascinating. In my childhood, I spent a considerable time during summer afternoons carefully watching a small beehive on a lemon tree in my backyard while making highly scientific notes like "top part of hive active, bottom part inactive..." and so on. The internet wasn't there then and there were few reference books (I claim) that helped me understand then that the top part of the hive is always active since that's where the bees that have just returned from their foraging flights to communicate location of food source.
It wasn't until, years later, while reading a National Geographic article about a robot bee that danced to communicate a food source at a pre-specified location that I began to understand that I had actually made an observation.
Somewhere along the way, I discovered Gerald Durrell and read with avid and untiring fascination the hilarious adventures that he had while collecting animals for other zoos and, eventually, his own. It wasn't my dream to own a zoo, but to live in the wild, studying animal behavior and recording previously unknown facets of their lives became an obsession. Fortunately for the animals and unfortunately for me that never materialized. I began studying spiders late and discovered that they could be fascinating too.
Take the signature spider for instance.

This juvenile built her web in my balcony and my wife, my son, and I issued strict instructions to the maid that the web wasn't to be disturbed. We watched as she grew, repaired her web which was frequently subject to depredations of wandering butterflies, dragonflies and sundry larger insects. She grew in size and experience but changed her web's location only once in all the time she was there.
A few weeks later, she encased a few hundred eggs in a cocoon and sat there waiting for them to hatch.
Hatch they did, twice. I did get pictures of the babies as they scrambled about, fully formed and already predatory but ignoring each other, perhaps because they were all the same size. Each baby's abdomen couldn't have been more than a mustard seed in size.
While we were engrossed with the signature spider, a jumping spider made her presence known to us. Gathering it up in my hands I let this fearless individual stalk around on my arm while I focussed and shot this picture one-handed.

The image was cropped to get really close to the spider.
She stalked around and frustrated my attempts at photography quite frequently. My wife held the spider on her finger where she settled down.
Yet another fascinating spider that we found in our balcony was the beautiful ant-mimic spider. This spider looks rather like a large red ant and waves its forelegs in the air rather like the antennae of an ant. It is only by observing it closely that one can figure out that the "antennae" are being used for walking and that this particular "ant" actually has eight legs instead of the regulation six.

This ant-mimic spider was safely ensconced in a web in the leaf. From the size of the pedipalps, this specimen can be differenciated as a male.
When it comes to sheer size, the giant wood spider takes the cake. This is a very colorful spider and is very large measuring as much as three to four inches in length. This picture was taken in B.R. Hills in October last year.

However, when it comes to brilliance in color among the spiders that I have seen, nothing beats the Cosmophasis. I am reliably informed that this spider is commonly found in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. But I found this one at the Kabini Jungle Lodges and Resorts.

It was my son who first spotted it and called me in excitement. He stood watch over it while I fitted my poor man's macro (a 3X magnifying filter) to my 18mm lens and shot the spider. I had also posted this picture on India Nature Watch where someone helped identify it.

4 comments:

Anush Shetty said...

Wonderful account of your adventure with Spiders. Very good images and superb info too.

couch potato said...

Thanks Anush. The info is, however, quite inadequate. I wish I could have put up more. :)

Sanna said...

Fascinating! :) Usually I never give the spiders a second thought. Most often I'm the one that carries them out of the house while the men in the household hides in another room. But that's as far as my interest have gone. Now I'll be looking for spiders too when I'm out and about.

couch potato said...

Hi Sanna,
Thanks for dropping by and thank you for your comments.

I would be grateful if you could share any information/pictures on spiders in Sweden.