World's Oldest Spider Dies in Australia at the Age of 43—From a Wasp Sting

Courtesy of Leanda Mason
Courtesy of Leanda Mason

A tarantula that was believed to be the world's oldest spider has died at age 43. This is quite the advanced age for arachnids, which typically live five to 20 years, according to the Agence France-Presse.

Called Number 16 by the scientists who were studying her, the female trapdoor tarantula died of a wasp sting in the Australian outback.

She outlived the previous eight-legged record-holder—a tarantula in Mexico—by 15 years, according to research published in the Pacific Conservation Biology journal. Tarantulas tend to live their entire lives in the same burrow hole, making them easy to track.

A tarantula burrow hole
Courtesy of Leanda Mason

By marking the burrow where Number 16 lived, scientists have been monitoring her movements in the wild ever since she was first found in the Central Wheatbelt region of Western Australia in 1974. The study has shed light on the behavior of tarantulas, as well as their habits and habitats. It's also helping researchers better understand how factors like climate change and deforestation may impact the species.

Scientists were able to determine "that the extensive life span of the trapdoor spider is due to their life-history traits, including how they live in uncleared, native bushland, their sedentary nature, and low metabolisms," lead researcher Leanda Mason, of Curtin University, said in a statement.

Mason told The Telegraph that researchers were "really miserable" about Number 16's death. They had hoped she would make it a few more years to her 50th birthday.

More than 850 species of tarantula exist in the wild, and they're native to tropical areas and deserts throughout South America, Australia, Southern Asia, and Africa. Female tarantulas can live up to 30 years, but the lifespan of males is significantly shorter, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

[h/t AFP]

No Venom, No Problem: This Spider Uses a Slingshot to Catch Prey

Courtesy of Sarah Han
Courtesy of Sarah Han

There are thousands of ways nature can kill, and spider species often come up with the most creative methods of execution. Hyptiotes cavatus, otherwise known as the triangle weaver spider, is one such example. Lacking venom, the spider manages to weaponize its silk, using it to hurl itself forward like a terrifying slingshot to trap its prey.

This unusual method was studied up close for a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers at the University of Akron in Ohio. They say it's the only known instance of an animal using an external device—its web—for power amplification.

Hyptiotes cavatus's technique is simple. After constructing a web, the spider takes one of the main strands and breaks it in half, pulling it taut by moving backwards. Then, it anchors itself to a spot with more webbing in the rear. When the spider releases that webbing, it surges forward, propelled by the sudden release of stored energy. In the slingshot analogy, the webbing is the strap and the spider is the projectile.

This jerking motion causes the web to oscillate, tangling the spider's prey further in silk. The spider can repeat this until the web has completely immobilized its prey, a low-risk entrapment that doesn’t require the spider to get too close and risk injury from larger victims.

The triangle weaver spider doesn’t have venom, and it needs to be proactive in attacking and stifling prey. Once a potential meal lands in its web, it’s able to clear distances much more quickly using this slingshot technique than if it crawled over. In the lab, scientists clocked the spider’s acceleration at 2535 feet per second squared.

Spiders are notoriously nimble and devious. Cebrennus rechenbergi, or the flic-flac spider, can do cartwheels to spin out of danger; Myrmarachne resemble ants and even wiggle their front legs like ant antennae. It helps them avoid predators, but if they see a meal, they’ll drop the act and pounce. With H. cavatus, it now appears they’re learning to use tools, too.

[h/t Live Science]

Plano, Texas Is Home to a Dog-Friendly Movie Theater That Serves Bottomless Wine or Whiskey

K9 Cinemas
K9 Cinemas

For dog owners in Plano, Texas, movie night with Fido no longer just means cuddling on the couch and browsing Netflix. The recently opened K9 Cinemas invites moviegoers—both human and canine—to watch classic films on the big screen. And the best part for the human members of this couple? Your $15 ticket includes bottomless wine or whiskey (or soft drinks if you're under 21).

The theater operates as a pop-up (or perhaps pup-up?) in a private event space near Custer Road and 15th Street in Plano. Snacks—both the pet and people kind—are available for $2 apiece. Dogs are limited to two per person, and just 25 human seats are sold per showing to leave room for the furry guests.

Pet owners are asked follow a few rules in order to take advantage of what the theater has to offer. Dogs must be up-to-date on all their shots, and owners can submit veterinary records online or bring a hard copy to the theater to verify their pooch's health status. Once inside, owners are responsible for taking their dog out for potty breaks and cleaning up after any accidents that happen (thankfully the floors are concrete and easy to wipe down).

While many of the movies shown are canine-themed—a recent screening of A Dog's Journey included branded bandanas with every ticket purchase—they also hold special events, like a Game of Thrones finale watch party (no word on how the puppers in attendance responded to Jon Snow finally acknowledging what a good boy Ghost is).

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