Drhoz! (drhoz) wrote in wtf_nature,

Katipos and Other AntipodeanTourist Attractions

Been following up a few connections after my post about Latrodectus hasselti , the Redback.

Here's a video (ignore the first 30 seconds about stingrays, or as we now call them "Irwin-Killing Bastardfish" )

Also those photos of a Latrodectus catching and eating a snake. Thankyou, wirrrn. This is actually fairly common - I rescued a dugite from a spider web myself, and luckily wasn't bitten by either, unlike the woman who got bitten by both. Dugites, or False Cobras, are potentially deadly Western Australian snakes and ungrateful swine.

I mentioned the Katipo, New Zealand's only venomous native, which is quite an interesting spider in it's own right. There are two species, katipo and atritus, both of them increasingly rare.

They're quite similar to the Redback, bar their beach-dwelling habits and increased hairiness. Indeed, they may even be true beachbum redbacks, that arrived on the shore one day from Australia and settled down to spend eternity running in and out of the surf and growing their hair long. Certainly they can cross-breed with Redbacks. Perhaps the local ladies are pleasantly surprised by males that don't murmur "pleasedon'teatme, pleasedon'teatme pleasedon'teatme" during sex, then drop dead all by themselves.

They're vulnerable to extinction because a distant relative has invaded their habitat, which is a shame because every country should have something that can kill you stone dead as you're dozing on the beach - it keeps one frightfully alert.

But aside from giving the local humans something to fear other than each other, or the countryside falling on them, or blowing up under their feet, they are relatively famous for their beach-bum ways. Indeed, Kiwis are quite proud of them, and the tourist board seems weirdly apologetic that Katipos are so rare.

Another famous, definitely Aussie expatriate, Kiwi spider is the Avondale Spider, Delena cancerides, originally from South Australia until accidentally imported with some hardwood lumber.

They're a huntsman spider, a large and widespread group of large, wide, spiders. Avondales are up to 8 Inches across, which is a tad undersized compared to most of the ones you'll find feeling their way under the door over here - Heteropoda maxima gets up to a foot across, for example. They're very leggy, and very fast, quite happy to run over you foot, up the wall, and across the ceiling where they'll crouch,spread their legs out, and stare at you cautiously whilst peering around for a juicy moth with the rest of their eyes.

I quite like Huntsmen myself - they're an elegant fuzzy grey, and although they'd certainly bite you if you threaten their eggs, that's never stopped me letting one run up and down my arms until I can get her out of the doughnut stand and over to the nearest exit.

Avondales starred in the movie Arachnophobia, and were ideal for the purpose because they are large, leggy, and disinclined to eat each other no matter how many the spider wranglers pour onto the set.

They got along well because they're a highly social spider - almost uniquely so. Most spider species will happily devour their siblings after the first or second moult, but these sweeties live happily in colonies of several hundred, and have been known to carry large prey home to share. That's one reason they haven't spread far beyond Avondale - yet. Although the 370 they used in Arachnophobia weren't allowed to go home for fear they'd bring back some horrible American spider disease and may well be languishing on a Hollywood corner somewhere, hoping for another film role, or waiting on tables.
Tags: australia, invertebrate, new zealand, sex, snake, spider
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