November 20th, 2006

Spiders Redux

The third time’s the charm. Phone problems prevented me from connecting with the Spider Woman Friday, to replicate the interview for which my computer ate all the notes, but I was able to get through to her today—and she was ultra-forgiving about the whole debacle.


Plus I learned some great new spider facts—and, in fact, so did she.


For a section on how Spidey fights his enemies, I’d asked her about fighting spiders. After some thought she said that spiders don’t usually fight—I guess they’re more laid back than the arachnophobic give them credit for—but there were a couple of species where males fight over females. I pressed her for a species name today, and after some judicious research she came back with Bowl and Doily spiders—and as she read me the entry in her reference book, she revealed that she was surprised to discover spiders actually can grapple. It’s one of the Bowl and Doily spider’s two fighting mechanisms, the other being sparring, in which the first two legs of one spider tap the legs of the other spider. I take it this is sort of the gloved slap in the face that initiates the final duel.


I asked her today if she’d ever been interviewed for a kids’ publication before, because she has the perfect way of simplifying scientific information for the layperson—plus adding a twist on it that makes it hilarious and totally kid-appropriate. (She never has—go figure.)


To wit:


Jumping spiders are famous for their dancing. This would be mating-dance dancing, of course. Today she expanded on last week’s comments about the dancing. “It’s to catch the female’s attention and also to advertise, ‘I’m the one you’ve been looking for,’” she explained. “Females can also tell: does he dance well, does he dance vigorously? It might tell you something about his quality.


“If you’re choosing between two guys,” she added, “which is the better dancer” might make a difference in your final decision.


I’m certainly not planning to buddy up with any eight-legged neighbors, and I’ll be more than relieved when this story is off my plate—but I must admit I have a friendlier feeling toward them now. The boys dance to impress the girls—it’s like “West Side Story” but with exoskeletons. How can you not like that?