Tonight while I was walking to the Downtown Berkeley BART station I almost walked right into a large descending spider. She was around two centimeters across the body, with a very swollen abdomen, and she was dropping straight down from a tree over on east side of Shattuck, right in front of Games of Berkeley. I tried to take some pictures of her, and attracted a lot of attention, since from even a few feet away it probably looked like I was taking flash photography of an empty sidewalk. She was moving up and down really fast and my little Casio simply couldn't keep its focus on her fast enough--the main drawback of such a small camera. One Craig Leres
happened to be near his camera, and got it, and he was able to at least focus on her. Unfortunately the flash washed all the markings out. I've tried to play with the contrast on photoshop.
I was particularly determined to record her because a couple nights ago I had come home to find a very similar spider camped out in front of my house, and was planning on blogging those pictures today anyway. As a friend of Craig's, Jef, says, they're probably just garden orb weavers, which I guess are fairly common. Somehow I suddenly find them rather thrilling. I never really noticed them before, and they seem large and substantial compared to the spindly or miniscule creatures I usually notice, their mottled coloring full of character and portent. I've had a mild interest in spiders since first grade, when my class room had a pet tarantula briefly, and I did a report on spiders and their webs. At my high school you could sometimes see tarantulas wandering about. In my family I'm usually the savior of spiders--if a spider confronts my mother or sister in the bathroom, its best hope of survival is if I'm home to carry it outside. Don't get me wrong, with my fabulous reactions to venom of any kind, I'm wary of the critters. But I try to give them their dues. Here's the spider from my house:Click here for the rest of the post: more pictures and information
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Another "ventral" shot:
A "dorsal" shot:
Close-up crop on the "ventral" side:
Here's Craig Leres's original picture of the Shattuck spider--a small version so you can see the treetop context:
and here's my collection of Photoshop filter attempts:
Craig's friend Jef has a recent picture of a garden orb weaver from his garden.
They're pretty amazing creatures. Check out this website about how the ornate web is constructed--usually every evening, to be ingested again before the dawn, with only the "bridge thread" left behind. (This checks with what I've observed in my garden.) This is an impressive collection of people's shots of garden orb weavers. Here's a page about Spiders! In Space! (I wonder if all the pages I'm finding are Australian because the spider is Australian in origin--brought over with the Eucalyptus?, because I just think these spiders are Garden Orb and they're actually not, or because Australians are just particularly arachnophilic.) Here's a Nature Biotechnology citation about in vitro expression and spinning of spider silk protein. I am particularly fascinated by the notion that spider web construction behaviors--the patterns and processes by which webs are made, usually distinctive to each species--are genetically inherited, not taught. I think this is the case from the cursory web surfing, though I'd like to find a more authoritative source. Makes me wish Peter Parker's next adventure involved the Spider Genome Project.