Posted by: scrubmuncher | July 7, 2010

Spiders from Mars (well, perhaps not, but they’re definitely peculiar)

The tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia are the oldest in the world. While the dense forests of South America and Central Africa have waxed and waned in the face of climatic changes over tens of millions of years, the forests of Southeast Asia have stood firm. With such huge stretches of time, evolution has got a bit carried away, spurring a vast array of living things best described as downright bizarre. Perfect examples of this are the Gasteracanth spiders, which are the oddest-looking spiders you’ll ever see.

There are so many potential predators in these hot, humid evolutionary sprouting chambers that any animal without adequate defences will last as long as France in the World-Cup. The perennial threat of being eaten by some forest mammal, bird or reptile has seen this group of spiders evolve some outlandish defences.

In order to deter the unwanted advances of a predator these spiders have evolved tough, spiny, unpalatable looking abdomens and to advertise their defences these spiders are often brightly coloured. Any hungry predators are left with no option to steer well clear unless they want to end their days unceremoniously choking to death on a spiny spider.

Below is a selection of these spiders from a recent trip to the forests of Sabah in Borneo:

This one is at the less outlandish end of the Gasteracanth spectrum (Ross Piper)

If was a hungry bird I definitely would not be eating this (Ross Piper)

The abdominal spines and bright colouring of this species makes it perfectly clear this spider is no small snack (Ross Piper)

Look at this brute. This is one of the largest Gasteracanth species and with its enormous spines it’s about 4cm across, more than enough to lodge in the throat of the largest predator (Ross Piper).

Bizarre, spiny spiders are just the start of it. The forests of Borneo were crawling with all manner of bizarre beasts, but more about these later…

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