Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fascinating things

Chariot Spider (4-5 " long, 2-3" wide)
Photo by Josh L.

Chariot spider
Photo by Jody Kincaid

Hey, I learned about an insane and brilliant evolutionary masterpiece that allegedly lives in Niger. It is called the Chariot Spider*, although a more fitting title might be Chariot Spider and Friend. See, it's the perfect example of mutualism, the ecological term for two different species whose interactions benefit both parties: a very poisonous SCORPION rides on the back of a very fast SPIDER, and together they destroy and devour smaller creatures. I guess the spider runs after them, the scorpion leaps off and stings the creature, and the two predators share the feast. Wow, I think that I'd like to see this in action. From a safe distance, but with an excellent view.

Other fascinating things: today we had a medical session all about skin diseases and irritations in Niger. Oh. my. god. Yuck. It sounds like we're all going to rot away in the rainy season. Disgusting.

*We have a spider expert in the family: biologist MG Weber. She examined the above photos and had this to say about the Chariot "Spider":

I hate to be the one to burst everyone's bubble! Well, this particular arachnid is called a Solphugid. They are close relatives of spiders, just like scorpions and ticks are close relatives of spiders. They can grow very big, so they get a lot of attention for scaring people. But as far as I know they aren't dangerous, because they don't have venom like spiders do. That doesn't mean those mandibles couldn't give you a healthy pinch though!

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