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8 Indian Spider species


Friendly neighbourhood spider

Clever spider spins a thread
to make a trap we call a web.
Clever spider knows that she
will have some insects with her tea.
                     --unknown--

Spider man was amongst the first super hero movies that I was exposed to as a child. I was fascinated by this character that had web slinging abilities. I often found myself dreaming of shooting the sticky substance and swinging from building to building in the concrete jungle of Mumbai (would definitely save me travel time).

The movie was a great step for deconstructing the dislike against spiders and combating the fear against these arachnoids (Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders) owing to the stereotypical depiction of them as the evil monstrous creature out there to get you.

Having observed and read about our eight legged friends, I have come to believe that if Spiderman had possessed all of the abilities of the spiders he would be invincible. They are such wonderful and amazing creatures that I could probably spend my whole life discovering them and yet would have only begun to scratch the surface.

The little beings of the jungle come in such explosive packages that even the imagination of the makers of superheroes is constantly inspired and fuelled by their existence. Ant-man, The Wasp, Blue Beetle to name a few of our favorite heroes is representative of just that.



Evolution of our Hero Spider

Our story starts about 400 million years ago, even before dinosaurs walked the earth there was an eight legged creature walking the forest floor, thick in the waist hunting other arthropods. Used silk mostly for laying eggs and later basic traps like trap doors and sheets webs. The spinneret was in the middle of the abdomen

The modern spiders we see today with thin waist and spinnerets on the end of the abdomen evolved around 250 million years ago and with them evolved other complex ways to build webs like orbs, tent, funnel, etc. as the prey around them evolved as well.

The word spider comes from the old English word spithra which means spinner.

Girl power

If Spider(man) were a hero it should have ideally been Spider(woman) In the spider world it is the female who is the king and queen. The females are larger than the males in most spider species. They are the dominant ones and the male must abide by her rules or he shall be consumed for dinner.

In one of the widely distributed spider species in India and the world, the golden orb web spider the female is more than six times longer than the male.

Superpower

Oh Yes! Yes! Yes! we have it all: super strength, great jumping abilities, camouflage, venom, etc. but what is the main power that makes our superhero?

Yes! You all guessed it correct, the web slinging abilities. The substance which has astonished and baffled us for centuries and till date we have not perfected the art of creating artificial silk even in a controlled environment like a laboratory. While spidey here has been making it for over 250 million years.

Silk is a protein in liquid form inside the body and solidifies once it comes in contact with air. There are seven silk glands in all. Each gland produces a distinct type of silk depending on its purpose. On an average a spider contains 3-4 silk glands. The female contains more glands than the male.

Silk is a unique material and demonstrates high tensile strength and extensibility. This enables it to be flexible, take strain and absorb a large amount of energy before it breaks.

Currently the Darwin’s bark spider found in Madagascar from the family of orb web spiders holds the record for the toughest silk in the world. 10 times stronger than Kevlar (bulletproof jacket). And this is only scratching the surface, we have only discovered less than 1% of spider silk. (40000+ species of spiders worldwide with 7 different types of silk)

Spiders in India

Spiders in India

Let us look at our superhero’s local chapter and explore some wonderful spiders in India.

Golden orb web spider / Giant Wood Spider

One of my favorite species, they are widely distributed throughout India. As the name suggest the female spiders are large and are lying in wait at the center of their large golden orb webs. While the males are tiny and are lying in wait at the periphery of the web.
The webs have a golden color to attract insects and also camouflage in the dapple golden light of the forest.
These spiders appear magically (from underground) in the beginning of monsoon June-July and the females will lay eggs and disappear by around November.
Their orb webs are strewn all around the forest and will at times smack you in the face as well if you are not attentive.
Love them or hate them you can’t ignore them!

Signature spiders

Signing their piece of work these spiders are identified by the zig-zag pattern towards the center of their web. They sit at the center and resemble an X symbol. They are brightly colored spiders, commonly found in forested areas.
The meaning of the signature is open for debate and there are various theories in place, the signature may act as a warning for birds to prevent them from colliding with the web. Another theory is the signature combined with the colors of the spider form an image of an attractive flower which may serve to attract insects.
Whatever it is, please witness this spider and it may just give you its autograph.

Funnel web spiders

Signing their piece of work these spiders are identified by the zig-zag pattern towards the center of their web. They sit at the center and resemble an X symbol. They are brightly colored spiders, commonly found in forested areas.
The meaning of the signature is open for debate and there are various theories in place, the signature may act as a warning for birds to prevent them from colliding with the web. Another theory is the signature combined with the colors of the spider form an image of an attractive flower which may serve to attract insects.
Whatever it is, please witness this spider and it may just give you its autograph.

Jumping spider

Joshua Slice an artist has created Lucas a super cute jumping spider to create awareness and change people’s conceptions about these eight legged heroes.
The jumping spider is small, doesn’t build webs and is seen wandering about on leaves in search for its prey. It is characterized by its frontal facing large eyes. It has one of best vision among arthropods and some of them can leap many times their own body length. Watch out for these jumping jacks.

Lynx Spiders

These are ambush hunters and camouflage well with surroundings. They do not build webs and wait near flowers and in leaves to ambush pollinators and other insects. Most of them have large bristles on their legs which help to trap prey, minimizing escape.
Look out for the Green Lynx spider with a keen eye, as it is the color of the leaves it waits on.

Ant mimic spiders

The ants are the bad asses of the forest floor and no one messes with an army. Hence it is advantageous to mimic the ants. This is called Batesian (protective) mimicry and helps spiders stay safe from wasps and birds which usually do not hunt ants. However certain species of spider also use the mimicry to hunt ants. (This is called aggressive mimicry). The spider not only looks like the ant, it also mimics the zig-zag pattern of locomotion and even waves its front pair of legs to resemble the antennae.
Talk about being indistinguishable, good luck spotting these critters!

Tarantulas

The largest species of spiders found, these have been protagonist for horror features for generations.
Regardless of their fearsome reputation tarantulas are themselves an object to predation especially from the wasp family, these wasps are called ‘tarantula hawks’. These spiders are hairy and all of them have venom to subdue their prey.
One of the most beautiful tarantulas found in India is the Poecilotheria metallica. This is one of the few blue tarantulas found in the world. Scientists are still trying to figure out why these spiders are blue in color. They are found in the forest of Andhra Pradesh.

Godric Gryffindor

For all the Harry Potter fans out there, the sorting hat has been found. There has been a discovery of a new spider species in the Western Ghats region of Karnataka, India (One of the most bio- diverse hot spots on the planet). This spider is shaped like the sorting hat in Harry Potter and hence has been named Godric Gryffindor.

Conclusion

Conclusion

My mother supervises the cleanliness in the house and describes the presence of an abundance of spider webs as an ill sign, a sign of dirtiness.
However, the ampleness of spider webs in the neighbourhood is a positive sign and a good bio-indicator.
So go around and spot your friendly neighbourhood spiders, because thanks to these superheroes the balance and order is maintained.

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