I am pleased to report that for the first time in almost a month I am wearing shoes and socks, and have stuffed the ugly ol’ immobilizing boot in a closet. It feels like real progress at last. Next, I’m going to gingerly walk over to the lab and set up some class stuff and tend to my little beasties.
I know that this is the least exciting news you’ve ever heard — some guy is wearing shoes and socks! NY Times, get a reporter on that! — so here’s something that’s almost as newsworthy: false widow spiders kill and eat mammals larger than themselves.
The video shows a noble false widow’s web, located outside a bedroom window of the house in Chichester, with a small mammal ensnared in the silk. Later analysis of the mammal’s remains helped researchers identify it as a pygmy shrew.
The shrew was still alive in the web, the researchers report, although it was only seen making a few slight movements near the beginning of its ordeal. That’s probably due to the spider’s powerful neurotoxic venom, which is known to cause rapid neuromuscular paralysis.
The spider was seen moving back and forth between the shrew and the rafters above the window, using silk to hoist the shrew upward about 25 centimeters, the researchers report.
After 20 minutes, the spider had lifted its prey into the rafters, partially out of view. It wrapped the shrew in silk, fed on it for three days, and then dropped what was left out of its web.
According to the researchers, “the remains of the shrew were nothing but fur, bones, and skin”.
Now you know why, despite my recent travails, I still made the effort to guarantee the few hundred false widows in my lab a twice-weekly feeding. I don’t feed them rodents, but they do love big juicy mealworms that are at least fifty times their mass. They got fed yesterday, and today Igor…I mean, me…must extract the drained corpses. Next feeding on Tuesday.