Interesting Science Picture XVIII: Spiders Eat Bats

Call me disturbed.

Spiders Eat Bats (Source)

Figure 2. Bats caught by spiders. A – Adult female Avicularia urticans feeding on a Greater Sac-winged Bat (Saccopteryx bilineata) on the side of a palm tree near the Rio Yarapa, Peru (photo by Rick West, Victoria, Canada; report # 1). B – Adult Proboscis Bat (Rhynchonycteris naso) entangled in a web of Argiope savignyi at the La Selva Biological Station, northern Costa Rica (photo by Mirjam Kno¨ rnschild, Ulm, Germany; report # 14). C – Dead bat (presumably Centronycteris centralis) entangled in an orb-web in Belize (photo by Carol Farneti-Foster, Belice City, Belize; report # 12). D – Dead bat (Myotis sp.) entangled in a web of Nephila clavipes in La Sirena, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica (photo by Harald & Gisela Unger, Ko¨ ln, Germany; report # 17). E – A bat caught in the web of an araneid spider (possibly Eriophora sp.) in Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica (photo by Cassidy Metcalf, USA; report # 18). F – Live bat trapped in web of Nephilengys cruentata in a thatch roof at Nisela Lodge, Swaziland (photo by Donald Schultz, Hollywood, USA; report # 47). G – Volant juvenile Proboscis Bat (Rhynchonycteris naso) entangled in web of Nephila clavipes photographed in a palm swamp forest near Madre de Dios, Peru (photo by Sam Barnard, Colorado Springs, USA; report # 7). H – Dead bat entangled in web of a female Nephila clavipes in tropical rainforest in the middle of the Rio Dulce River Canyon near Livingston, Guatemala (photo by Sam & Samantha Bloomquist, Indianapolis, USA; report # 11). I – Dead bat (Rhinolophus cornutus orii) caught in the web of a female Nephila pilipes on Amami-Oshima Island, Japan (photo by Yasunori Maezono, Kyoto University, Japan; report # 35). J, K – A small bat (superfamily Rhinolophoidea) entangled in web of Nephila pilipes at the top of the Cockatoo Hill near Cape Tribulation, Queensland, Australia (photo by Carmen Fabro, Cockatoo Hill, Australia; report # 39). The spider pressed its mouth against the dead, wrapped bat, indicating that it was feeding on it. A Nephila pilipes male also present in the web (K) may have been feeding on the bat as well. L – Dead vespertilionid bat entangled in the web of a female Nephila pilipes in the Aberdeen Country Park, Hong Kong (photo by Carol S.K. Liu from AFCD Hong Kong, China; report # 32).

The Genetics of Stay at Home Vs “Exploratory” Butterflies

Science Daily has a fascinating bit on butterflies called Butterflies That Explore and Colonize New Habitats Are Genetically Different from Cautious Cousins.This extended quote from the press release is fascinating:

In the new study, another gene variant also stood out as an important indicator of butterfly flight ability. New-population females were more often missing a small part of the succinate dehydrogenase gene (Sdhd) and this small deletion was associated with the ability to maintain flight for a greater duration. “The Pgi gene variant seems to be associated with sprinting, and the Sdhd gene variant appears to be associated with endurance,” Marden said. “It’s easy to see why these traits and their associated genes would be found at higher frequencies in new populations. Better flight ability allows certain butterflies to be able to reach and settle new habitat patches.”

Wheat, the paper’s lead author, said, “We already knew about Pgi from previous work in other butterflies and what has been done so far in the Glanville fritillary butterfly. Now with Sdhd we have two genes in the same carbohydrate-metabolism pathway containing alleles of major effect for ecologically important traits.” Marden also commented on the differences in gene expression involving protein dynamics. “Butterflies obtain protein only during larval feeding, whereas the adults rely on nectar, from which they obtain only carbohydrate,” he said. “The timing and level of expenditure of stored proteins is one way to manipulate life history in a species where no more protein will be available to the adult.”

The paper is being published in Molecular Ecology, if someone has access and can send me a copy I would appreciate it. The paper can be found here:

Christopher W. Wheat, Howard W. Fescemyer, J. Kvist, Eva Tas, J. Cristobal Vera, Mikko J. Frilander, Ilkka Hanski, James H. Marden. Functional genomics of life history variation in a butterfly metapopulation. Molecular Ecology, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05062.x

My email is in the “About” tab…

Bee Porn and Male-Male Courtship in Drosophila melanogaster

PNAS has a couple of interesting articles in the most recent edition. The first, The evolution of imperfect floral mimicry touches on a subject that fascinated Darwin. I don’t have access to the paper, but here is the abstract:

Continue reading

I’m a Bit Late To The Fray, But The Best Phylum = Arthropods

The question has come up on ScienceBlogs as to which class of invertebrates are the best, coolest, etc. Like PZ I had though about saying Cephalopods (because of those nice octopi that helped the archaeology community find some pottery), but in the end I had to go with Arthropods. Let me give you a few examples as to why.

Continue reading

Social Behavior in Spiders

According to New Scientist a new species of spiders has been discovered that lives in groups and cooperates when hunting:

According to Avilés, there are over 39,000 identified spider species. While she has seen just over 20 species cooperate, she has never encountered any species quite like Theridion nigroannulatum.
The spiders live in nests that house up to several thousand individuals which hunt by hanging threads from low lying leaves. They then hide upside down, beneath the leaves waiting for prey.
When an insect flies into the strands a group of spiders drop down and throw sticky webbing over it. To finish off the ambush they inject venom with their tiny jaws.

Continue reading

Spiders: One from the Archive

You naughty, naughty people! Come looking for kinky spider lovin ! Come on admit it, thats why you here! Although I have posted some nasty buggers, it’s not that kind of nasty!

Continue reading

Spiderweb Trapped in Amber

Awhile back I mentioned the discovery of a 120-115 million year old orb weaver trapped in amber. National Geographic and New Scientist both have a story on a spider web trapped in amber. The find dates to about 110 mya.

Continue reading

Ecology of 30,000,000 Year Old Spiders

Science Daily has an interesting article on spiders trapped in amber. This is a subject I have blogged about previously here. According to the article 671 species of spiders, dating to approximately 30 million years ago, from the Baltic and the Carribean were compared. Here is a picture of one:

Continue reading

New Species of Assassin Spiders Discovered

archaeid_eating_450w.jpg
According to the California Academy of Sciences nine new species of assassin spiders (such as the one pictured above) have been discovered in Madagascar:

These tiny arachnids in the Archaeidae family are only about 2 mm (less than 1/8 inch) long, but their bizarre fangs and spider-hunting practices have earned them a reputation as the world’s most grotesque spiders. They hunt by stabbing their prey with venom-filled fangs that are attached to the ends of extremely elongated jaws. These specialized jaws are about ten times longer than the jaws of most other spiders their size. To support these long jaws and prevent them from dragging along the ground, Assassin spiders have also evolved elongated necks.

*snip*

Surprisingly, the DNA data also revealed that the presence of elongated necks among Archaeidae spiders had evolved at least two separate times. A classic example of convergent evolution, her findings suggest that the need to strike out at prey from a distance encouraged the evolution of extended body parts on more than one occasion.

Blood Drinking Spiders!

The above is a jumping spider native to Africa:

Evarcha culicivora, is found only around Lake Victoria in Kenya and Uganda. A species of jumping spider, or salticid, it usually hunts insects on tree trunks and buildings. It stalks its prey rather than trapping it in a web.

At the moment it is pretty unique. You see it has a taste for mammal – and human – blood! How do we know this? Scientists recently conducted prey preference experiments. This is how it works:

Lab experiments conducted near Lake Victoria showed the spider preferred female mosquitoes fed with human blood over all other prey, including male mosquitoes, which don’t feed on animal blood.

Tests of the spider’s prey preferences showed it went for blood-engorged female mosquitoes in 83 percent of cases when offered a choice of two similar-size insects.

When it came to making a choice based on smell alone, with the two meal options hidden from view, around 90 percent of jumping spiders selected the blood-filled mosquito.

Although many spiders have relatively poor eyesight—those that use webs to trap prey have no need for acute vision, Nelson says—jumping spiders are an exception.

“Salticids are predators that actively search for prey and mates and typically do not build webs,” she said. “They have evolved eyes that support high-acuity vision suited to their active lifestyle.”

Spiders don’t have the skin-piercing mouth parts needed to feed directly on human blood, but the mosquito-munching jumping spider appears to have got around this. The strategy has other advantages as well, Nelson points out.

“Blood-feeding is a dangerous activity,” she said. “Animals that are bitten have a swatting response, and often the insect is killed.”

So, essentially the spider has come up with a method to avoid being swatted and still specialize on blood.

The study team suspects a blood meal is also biologically important to E. culicivora.

They say spiders expend a lot of energy breaking solid food down into liquid by injecting their prey with digestive enzymes.

“Perhaps blood is a ready-made, nutrient-rich liquid meal,” Nelson said.

Although spiders creep me out, I think this is a fascinating study in evolution. Mosquitos specialize on blood as a food source as does E. culicivora but both have evolved different methods to obtain it. It would be interesting to find out if mosquitos were E. culicivora’s primary prey or if this is a recent addition to their diet. It would also be interesting to see if there is a closely related species that doesn’t feed on mosquitos (I’m thinking of Rhagoletis pomonella).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers