Wednesday, October 29, 2008

EP Oct22: Spiders!!

When I was a teenage kid, I used to play around our backyard (w/c is like a mini-forest, having a Mom who likes greeneries - too much greeneries). My favorite “Nat Geo” adventure back then was to observe huge colonies of carpenter ants inhabiting our Guyabano tress. This was when I first learned about ant roles and hierarchies, and their keen interest w/ aphids (white insect-animal that they “herd” as we do w/ our cows).

In one of this observation routine, I chanced upon a big spider, sitting – rather sleeping, in its huge, intricately-designed web trap. And I thought – what does it eat?! It’s boring to watch a sleeping spider, unlike the army of ants who constantly gather food for their colony. I’ve learned from somewhere that spiders are predators. Being a curious little smart guy, I wondered who is more superior, the spider – or these soldier ants who try to prick my skin. And so I introduced a mini UFC for these fighters.
I perfected the procedure on how to capture and throw ants in the web. Was that bad? I don’t know – I was a kid then hehe.
Things get more excited when the spider ‘attacks’ the trapped ant and spin a web around it (more like wrapping cellophane around your big luggage). Sometimes the ant will try to fight back, but the sticky web prevents it from moving properly. A few minutes would tick by, before the spider start slurping its meal. Ewe!
My afternoon Nat Geo adventure abruptly ended, when I finally decided to throw an ipis (cockroach) maybe 8-10x the size of the spider, into the web trap. The Ipis struggled so violently, tearing some support webs in the process. The spider decided to have a run for its life. Ay nako! The web held though and I believe (and I did not want to confirm by seeing), that the spider was into a big buffet that dinner.

Around 20 years after that kiddy adventure, I was about to do a similar thing for Born. Look for spiders, and watch them eat! The picture above is a big non-trapper spider, capable of eating a dragon fly - the size of its own. Umm, the pix is kind’a blurred, well it’s not my camera so don’t blame me!

Spider is another nature’s wonder. It evolved little, its root from Horseshoe crab (w/c by the way, is still a living fossil). Spiders are arachnids, and not insects. They’re cousins of garapata and kuto (ticks). I’ve seen videos of big tarantulas killing and eating a snake, a mouse, a scorpion, and other odd-food-for-spiders. They have ‘fangs’ like snakes, they don’t chew, and just suck their preys bone dry. Some species could be more venomous than snakes. If they grow as big as a carabao – they could be a dominant predator species, maybe even attacking humans for food! Ano yan – Lord of the Rings?! Thank God they don’t grow as big. But yes – it is truly an amazing animal.
Their big role in the ecosystem is to regulate insect population. Sadly for them, their population is likewise controlled by bats, birds and other small animals feeding on them.

Are they endangered? Most are not, but some species of tarantula are threatened due to excessive pet trade. Should we be scared of them? Only a few species are venomous – so for their sake (and yours), just shoo them away (you’re not food for them). And who knows – they might be eating a mosquito-meal that could have given you a Dengue or Malaria disease.. di ba?! :0

Did you know that the best technologies are those that are based on natural design? This new trend that promotes nature-based technologies should be able to solve some crisis that we have today regarding environmental impact of some technologies, or non-efficient technologies due to 'wrong science' (ex. nuclear power may not be the right energy-source given various issues around it).
One of science's inspiration to do, what we call Biomimicry - is the wonder of spider's silk web. We thought that we're good in building new technologies such as Kevlar, Combustion engines, pollutant chemicals, etc. We now know that the best technologies, are those that are derived from nature itself. Read below :)
Spider silk is more stable than Kevlar and many times more stable than steel. Its tensile strength, low weight and elasticity make the material resistant. The combination of these characteristics affords high stability. Spider silk has a load carrying capacity of two tons per square inch and is only a third the weight of Kevlar. The structure of the silk has areas that are hard, which lend stability, and softer areas that provide elasticity. The diameter of spider silk is only a fraction that of a human hair. The surface appears to be completely smooth, but if one removes the outermost layer, one can see a complex structure of very tiny fibers winding like a spiral around a central strand. Fibers consist of a network of long protein molecules, which are stabilized by crystal inlays. Not only the sequence of the amino acids is important, but also the spatial arrangement of the protein chains.

For quite some time it has been possible to produce synthetic spider silk. Through Biomimicry/bioengineering a material can be produced that is very close to natural spider silk, and in the future this synthetic may indeed be superior to the natural material. As one is dealing here with biomaterial, specifications as to physical characteristics can only be approximated. Nonetheless, it is believed that a rope of spider silk the thickness of a finger should be able to stop a Boeing 747.
galing di bah?!


Awienism said...


ikaw nga! woohooo!

since ikaw talaga yan, pa-autograph naman ng mga TNF ko na apparel ha.

don't worry mga hindi pa used ang mga yun kaya wala ka maaamoy na di kanais-nais hehehe...

kailan kaya possible?


jacel said...

aba! parang hindi ka thankful sa picture na binigay ko ah! hahahaha sensya na pangit camera ng iphone ko! haha

Anonymous said...

awienism - u tot i hv budget for a PA? asa! :P punta ka ROX pg may event, i'll launch a local expedition/event end-Jan or Feb. check out roxphilippines.multiply for schedule.