In many species, including most mammals and birds, it is the male that is larger and showier that the female of the species. In spiders and insects the opposite it true. I had a very up close and personal encounter with sexual dimorphism in the argiope spider ( orb weaver) on a lunch time walk close to my office last week.
I actually spied this gorgeous lady spider the week before and took a few pictures of her. She was a little nervous and moved away from the center of the web too quickly for me to snap a shot of her sprawled out. Perhaps she was already lying in wait for her courtesan.
The next visit she was laying very still at the hub of her web and I managed to approach her very quietly without disturbing any of the threads of the web. I took a few pictures from the front but I didn't like the lack of contrast so I approached her from the side. That is when I spotted the little spiderman.
Here it is very advantageous to be tiny and nimble. The male must approach the web from it's edge and crawl across it without disturbing the web, otherwise she will think him to be lunch and he will have to fall make a very speedy descent of be eaten. Sexual cannibalism is also prominent in the spider world. He crawls very silently and slowly on the opposite side of the web until he reaches the hub where she lies waiting. The act occurs there and then she may eat him or he may escape by jumping away.
I hope to visit this dramatic "web site" over the next few weeks to see if it was a success. I will look for evidence of an egg sac and if nature is kind and the spiderlings are able to hatch I will try to catch some pictures for you.
Here is few pictures of a card I made for a dear friend and some flowers just in case you don't really want to be thinking about spiders for the remainder of the day. If you are fascinated by the subject though i would highly recommend the "green porno" series of short films by Isabella Rossellini. Especially the segment where she portrays the little spider man. In an interview for Scientific American , when asked why she focused on insects, she said,
"Mammals would look too pornographic. With the bugs, they’re so strange and far out, they’re comical. If a human being behaved like a bug, he or she would be arrested. Also, when I was little, I always said I should have been born in Africa or been like Jane Goodall. That was my dream. And then when I moved to live in the country, I discovered all these bugs in my backyard. I discovered you can do your own safari. Animals are everywhere. Some are more romantic, like tigers and elephants and chimpanzees, and some are less romantic, like earthworms, but they are just as interesting."
Hope you have some interesting encounters today!!