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St Andrews Cross Spider & Cook Highway - 1 of 4
In 2007 I was taking photos along the Cook Highway that links Cairns with Port Douglas and Mossman. On the headland I had to walk along the road's edge, (seen in photos 3 and 4) and in the guard rails, found some St Andrews Cross spiders sheltered there. It was sunny but the wind was blowing strongly and a lot of the photos were blurred when getting really close macro. Photo 1 is probably the best of them and with the sun, the colours are quite accurate. Photo 2 shows a wider field for this spider. ============================================= The St Andrew's Cross (Argiope keyserlingi) grows only to about 31 mm across (1.3 inches) and is found Australia wide. A cryptic name, a cryptic creature. First glance at the common name of this araneid spider of the genus Argiope, one may think: "Why St. Andrew's Cross?"; This is so because this particular spider likes to contort its 20mm (males: 5mm) frame to resemble a cross. It does not care for the gangly eight-legged look that most spiders sport. Rather, it prefers to pair its legs so that it appears to be aligned to the four distinguished arms of the Cross of St. Andrew's. The St. Andrew's soft spot for all things 'X' is further seen on the stabilimentum that takes pride of place at the centre of the 38-50mm wide web of the mature female. The mangrove specimen (Argiope mangal) usually spins two of these silken zig-zag bands named stabilimentum, while the inland counterparts like the Argiope versicolor, will spin four bands to form the shape of a cross. This extraordinary phenomenon of the 'X' has drawn a good amount of speculation as to its significance. For many years, it was thought that the function of the zig-zag bands was to strengthen the web or to conceal the spider which often sits, head downward, at the centre of the stabilimentum. Some scientists in the United States established that the purpose of the stabilimentum is to advertise the presence of the web to birds. The birds will know to avoid the webs if they do not want to risk being entangled in the sticky silk. The spiders thus get to preserve their webs, which they will eat when worn out, as it is a precious source of protein supply for silk production. However, recent research has uncovered a new explanation. The silk which makes up most of the web is a poor reflector of ultraviolet light, except the stabilimentum which reflects it very efficiently. In the same way flowers reflect ultraviolet light to attract pollinating insects, the stabilimentum is believed to attract insects to the web, by mimicking a flower. We do not know for sure the reason for the zig-zag bands. Perhaps it just appeals to this little spider's aesthetic sense? Speaking of aesthetic, many will certainly appreciate the pretty webs of the juvenile St Andrew's Cross Spider. These light brown youngsters weave an exquisite disc of lace in the middle of their abodes. As they mature, they add a cross to the disc. When they finally attain adulthood, they only make the cross, or half a cross, in the case of the Argiope mangal. The orb web of the St. Andrew's Cross spider may be good-looking but more importantly, it plays a major role in the spider's eventual survival. Firstly, with only a relatively small outlay of material, it forms a flexible, strong structure spanning a large area— the ideal trap for flying insects. When an insect hits the web, the spider runs out, shrouds it in fine silk and bites it to death. Then, digestive juices are injected into the wrapped prey and the contents sucked out when the digestive process is complete (in a day or so). The careful geometrical arrangement of the capture threads and the spokes allows the spider to move around the web on the thread without becoming trapped. The web is also a defensive tool for the spider. If disturbed, it can flip from one side of the web to the other with lightning swiftness, thus keeping the web between itself and the would-be attacker. Alternatively, it may shake the web vigorously until it becomes an indistinct blur. Apparently, the St Andrew's Cross Spider is not just literally cross in its physical appearance but can be rather cross in temperament too!Oswald's Kitchen: Lee speaks!
Lee in his kitchen, speaking. Note how they (well, SitePal®) can animate his mouth! He is in the middle of saying "you," here, I think. I make a lot of these as disturbing "greeting cards" for people, in which Lee can address my recipients by NAME, as well as "speak" a personal message to them, whether it is a "Happy Birthday" or just a simple hello. Other videos I make public, like this one. If only I could get him to SING...
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