The greatest honor ever!


A whole genus of spiders has been named after David Bowie, Bowie ziggystardust, B. majortom, B. letsdance and B. magicdance among them. They’ve been split off from a larger group of highly venomous spiders — Bowie was pretty potent after all. Over 100 species have been reclassified on what would have been his 75th birthday.

The Bowie spiders are part of a family known as the Ctenidae, or wandering spiders, which mostly live in the tropics. They get their name from their behaviour, forgoing a web in favour of prowling forests for prey such as insects, reptiles and frogs.

To aid their hunting, wandering spiders have developed powerful venoms. One genus of the Ctenidae, Phoneutria, produces a venom which poses a lethal threat to humans, with males being more toxic than females.

Little known fact: Bowie’s wonderful music was also a lethal threat to humans, or would have been, if not for his restraint.

Magic dance!

Comments

  1. René says

    He lived in New York.

    No doubt, substantially contributing to the country’s intelligence.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    I am not much into pop music, but even I felt his music was something special.
    Can we please bring him back as a zombie? I know of several Americans that can do fine without their brains.
    .
    “Prowling forests for prey”
    We in Scandinavia have such a depleted, boring fauna. No dangerous spiders, only one semi-dangerous viper, a few lazy bears who run away from people, Lynx and wolverines that are too small to do real damage and a few wolf packs that totally ignore humans in favor of sheep.
    Last week police found a dead hunter that is believed to have been injured by a wild boar (they were re-introduced by wealthy hunters and promotly escaped from enclosures). But boars abd moose only hurt people once in a blue moon.
    .
    I need you to supply some critters that can thrive in a boreal climate. The Northern Minnesotan Scorpion? Radioactive giant hedgehogs? It would spice things up if nature required at least a little bit of caution.

  3. says

    We in Scandinavia have such a depleted, boring fauna. No dangerous spiders, only one semi-dangerous viper, a few lazy bears who run away from people, Lynx and wolverines that are too small to do real damage and a few wolf packs that totally ignore humans in favor of sheep. Last week police found a dead hunter that is believed to have been injured by a wild boar (they were re-introduced by wealthy hunters and promotly escaped from enclosures). But boars abd moose only hurt people once in a blue moon.

    But you do have the unique fauna in N. prizecommittee, especially subtypes peace, lit’rachur, and econ† that manage to “hurt people” every year. (Just about as often as a true “blue moon” happens.)

    † Officially not related, but common recognition of the true taxonomy is lacking.

  4. Akira MacKenzie says

    moose only hurt people once in a blue moon.

    I’m sorry, I’ve GOT TO quote it:

    “A Møøse once bit my sister…”

    There! I have been sated.

  5. Tethys says

    Bowie was an amazing artist, but I prefer binomial nomenclature that tells you something about the organism rather than human vanity. I doubt anyone will be listening to Bowie’s music in a few hundred years time.

    I need you to supply some critters that can thrive in a boreal climate. [..] It would spice things up if nature required at least a little bit of caution.

    The boreal climate requires caution if you don’t wish to freeze to death. Every winter people die due to exposure, or going through a frozen lake. We do have a native Rattlesnake, black bears, and Timberwolves, but the most dangerous animals in Minnesota are White-tailed Deer.

    Maybe the brain eating amoeba? It’s tiny, but lethal.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    Brain-eating amoeba sounds great, but can we breed a big “The Blob” variant?
    .
    -The foreign beech marten has just established itself here.
    It likes to sneak under car hoods and gnash on electric cables.
    I look forward to future Teslas providing fun surprises when you try to brake.
    .
    Bowie started off as a (not all that good) mine before going into music..
    Is there any spider that likes to wave the limbs around as if trapped in a box?

  7. John Morales says

    Cheer up, PZ.

    Asteroid 153298 Paulmyers will (probably) be around long after the Bowie spiders are gone.

  8. silvrhalide says

    @6 well, you could always import some razorbacks, aka feral hogs. They do quite well in cold temperatures and boreal environments. Unlike actual wild hogs/boars, the razorbacks are feral and so are familiar with human behavior and consequently, less afraid of people. They’ve been known to eat the occasional unlucky human.
    African lions used to roam all of Europe only a few centuries ago, before Europeans hunted them to extinction. Maybe reintroduce them? Or introduce Siberian tigers and snow leopards to a new range? The latitude is about right. What about polar bears? Surely you should have some. Russian & neighboring countries do.

    @10 Well, that’s not good news about the beech marten. IIRC, they are also tree climbers & normally raid bird nests? Does your electrical grid rely on buried cables or power lines on poles?

    @9 I beg to differ. Considering how often Bowie’s music is sampled, covered and used in movies and the occasional TV ad, I’d guess that a hundred years from now, people will still be listening to his music in one form or another. Think about how often Bach’s Fugue in D minor shows up and that ballparks around 300 years ago. To be fair, Bach could not possibly have dreamed that Fugue in D minor would be (over)used in cheesy horror flicks of a certain vintage but there you go.

  9. lasius says

    @14
    “you could always import some razorbacks, aka feral hogs. They do quite well in cold temperatures and boreal environments”

    Razorbacks won’t survive in areas that have actual predators like wolves or bears as in Scandinavia.

    “African lions used to roam all of Europe only a few centuries ago”

    Nah, they only roamed the southern Balkans and even that was more than 2.000 years ago. Cave lions were more widespread but that was 10.000 years ago.

    “they are also tree climbers ”

    Not usually. That’s rather the niche of the related pine marten.

  10. silvrhalide says

    @15 Hmm. Razorbacks do pretty well against coyotes and the coyotes-gray wolf hybrids. Not sure how well they’d do against a full wolf pack though, although reportedly, some of the razorbacks are moving in bands. Maybe matrilineal groups? Not sure how widespread the grouping thing is. Environmental pressures do odd things to organisms. Coyotes were long thought to be solitary/paired hunters but with the reintroduction of the gray wolf in various areas, coyotes are now forming packs and also interbreeding with wolves.

    Interesting about the marten though. Apparently fishers (a somewhat related animal to the marten) are coming to NYC, a couple have already been found. Not sure how avid they are as climbers–it’s possible they will put a dent in the squirrel population, possibly the raccoon population as well. Unfortunately, they may put a dent in the feral cat population (the kittens anyway and maybe raccoon kits), which could be problematic, since the feral cat population is currently the only thing keeping the rat population in check in the five boroughs. Right now it’s mostly squirrels and parrots that periodically wipe out parts of the electrical grids by getting into transformers and chewing. Kind of hoping fishers don’t have the same proclivity for chewing electrical wires as martens do–they’d do just fine in the subways.
    https://naturalsciencesresearch.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/fisher-photographed-in-the-bronx-first-ever-nyc-record-of-this-squirrel-and-rat-predator/

    Look, domestic hogs are a potential danger I take seriously. Used to take care of a small/boutique farm when the regular owners went on vacation. Always liked the pigs, as they are actually smart, clean and quite social/friendly. Then I took care of the farm when the breeding sow was in season. Holy s***. I have never cleared the fence faster. Several hundred pounds of porcine PMS is not a joke. I’m not all all inclined to go looking for trouble with razorbacks.

    “Nah, they only roamed the southern Balkans and even that was more than 2.000 years ago.”
    I thought they made it as far north as Crimea? And France? I was also under the impression that early European kings and the like hunted them, which is why they showed up on so many royal coat of arms?

  11. Artor says

    If I recall, wandering spider’s venom produces priapism as one of the symptoms, as can be seen in the clip of Bowie as the Goblin King.

  12. lochaber says

    I feel like there is a lost opportunity for something about “spiders from Mars”, but I’m witty enough to figure it out…

  13. lasius says

    @16

    “I thought they made it as far north as Crimea? And France?”

    No. Historically there were tigers in the eastern Black Sea region and maybe Crimea though.

    “I was also under the impression that early European kings and the like hunted them, which is why they showed up on so many royal coat of arms?”

    What are “early European kings”? In the last two millenia any lions that were used in Europe for venatio or other games were imported.

Leave a Reply