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Robert Whyte

Meet 10 Beautiful Spiders

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Robert Whyte

Are you afraid of spiders? Don’t be; these are only pictures of spiders that stand out because of their strikingly beautiful appearance. Or at least, some species of spiders that you’d be lucky to ever see in the wild. They’re always prettier when you don’t have to separate them from a screaming family member in the bathroom.

Sequined Spiders

Photograph by Doug Beckers.

Some species of the spider genus called Thwaitesia are also referred to as mirror spiders, bling spiders, or sequined spiders because of the bright and sometimes reflective jewel tones of their abdomens. This one is from Australia.

Photograph by Flickr user Robert Whyte.

Thwaitesia nigronodosa are also found in Australia.

Photograph by Poyt448 Peter Woodard.

Another species of mirrored spider is Thwaitesia argentiopunctata. These colorful spiders are found in Australia. Honestly, not all Thwaitesia species are in Australia, just the most nicely photographed examples.

Ladybird Mimic Spider

Photograph by Flickr user Vijay Anand Ismavel.

The Ladybird Mimic Spider, or Paraplectana, adopted the red with black spots look of a common ladybug. Why? Possibly it’s because ladybugs taste pretty bad, and are unattractive to predators. They are found in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia.

Spiny Orb Weaver

Photograph by Thejasvi Munishankarappa.

Spiders of the genus Gasteracantha are orb weavers. Gasteracantha dalyi are native to India and have two long curved “horns.” Those spines are not really horns, but the spider’s spinnerets. Scary looking, but still beautiful in its own way.

Ogre-Faced Spider

Photograph by Flickr user Robert Whyte.

This is the face of an ogre-faced spider, or Deinopis subrufa. Look at those beautiful blue eyes! This species is a net-casting spider, meaning it throws its web to catch prey. It lives in eastern Australia and Tasmania.

Jumping Spiders

Photograph by Flickr user Thomas Shahan.

The genus Phidippus are jumping spiders, mostly found in North America. One of the prettiest is Phidippus workmani, found in the United States. How could you resist those lovely eyes -all four of them?

Photograph by Flickr user Thomas Shahan.

Phidippus putnami is also quite beautiful, with colors that resemble a flower.

Peacock Spiders

Photograph by Flickr user Jurgen Otto.

Maratus splendens is not the only species of peacock spider, but its taxonomic name is particularly descriptive. It is certainly splendid! This species is only found near Sydney, Australia. The male of the species has a colorful flap that it raises to attract females.

Photograph by Flickr Jurgen Otto.

Maratus volens, on the other hand, is found in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, and Tasmania. Maratus spiders are a type of jumping spider. The female is a dull brown, which is just fine with the family.

See also: 5 Terrifyingly Huge Spiders, 9 Spiders and the Stars They Were Named For, and The Creepiest Spider Videos You'll Ever See.

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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
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Animals
Scientists Discover 'Octlantis,' a Bustling Octopus City
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Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Octopuses are insanely talented: They’ve been observed building forts, playing games, and even walking on dry land. But one area where the cephalopods come up short is in the social department. At least that’s what marine biologists used to believe. Now a newly discovered underwater community, dubbed Octlantis, is prompting scientists to call their characterization of octopuses as loners into question.

As Quartz reports, the so-called octopus city is located in Jervis Bay off Australia’s east coast. The patch of seafloor is populated by as many as 15 gloomy octopuses, a.k.a. common Sydney octopuses (octopus tetricus). Previous observations of the creatures led scientists to think they were strictly solitary, not counting their yearly mating rituals. But in Octlantis, octopuses communicate by changing colors, evict each other from dens, and live side by side. In addition to interacting with their neighbors, the gloomy octopuses have helped build the infrastructure of the city itself. On top of the rock formation they call home, they’ve stored mounds of clam and scallop shells and shaped them into shelters.

There is one other known gloomy octopus community similar to this one, and it may help scientists understand how and why they form. The original site, called Octopolis, was discovered in the same bay in 2009. Unlike Octlantis, Octopolis was centered around a manmade object that had sunk to the seabed and provided dens for up to 16 octopuses at a time. The researchers studying it had assumed it was a freak occurrence. But this new city, built around a natural habitat, shows that gloomy octopuses in the area may be evolving to be more social.

If that's the case, it's unclear why such octo-cities are so uncommon. "Relative to the more typical solitary life, the costs and benefits of living in aggregations and investing in interactions remain to be documented," the researchers who discovered the group wrote in a paper published in Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology [PDF].

It’s also possible that for the first time in history humans have the resources to see octopus villages that perhaps have always been bustling beneath the sea surface.

[h/t Quartz]

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This Just In
Criminal Gangs Are Smuggling Illegal Rhino Horns as Jewelry
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iStock

Valuable jewelry isn't always made from precious metals or gems. Wildlife smugglers in Africa are increasingly evading the law by disguising illegally harvested rhinoceros horns as wearable baubles and trinkets, according to a new study conducted by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

As BBC News reports, TRAFFIC analyzed 456 wildlife seizure records—recorded between 2010 and June 2017—to trace illegal rhino horn trade routes and identify smuggling methods. In a report, the organization noted that criminals have disguised rhino horns in the past using all kinds of creative methods, including covering the parts with aluminum foil, coating them in wax, or smearing them with toothpaste or shampoo to mask the scent of decay. But as recent seizures in South Africa suggest, Chinese trafficking networks within the nation are now concealing the coveted product by shaping horns into beads, disks, bangles, necklaces, and other objects, like bowls and cups. The protrusions are also ground into powder and stored in bags along with horn bits and shavings.

"It's very worrying," Julian Rademeyer, a project leader with TRAFFIC, told BBC News. "Because if someone's walking through the airport wearing a necklace made of rhino horn, who is going to stop them? Police are looking for a piece of horn and whole horns."

Rhino horn is a hot commodity in Asia. The keratin parts have traditionally been ground up and used to make medicines for illnesses like rheumatism or cancer, although there's no scientific evidence that these treatments work. And in recent years, horn objects have become status symbols among wealthy men in countries like Vietnam.

"A large number of people prefer the powder, but there are those who use it for lucky charms,” Melville Saayman, a professor at South Africa's North-West University who studies the rhino horn trade, told ABC News. “So they would like a piece of the horn."

According to TRAFFIC, at least 1249 rhino horns—together weighing more than five tons—were seized globally between 2010 and June 2017. The majority of these rhino horn shipments originated in southern Africa, with the greatest demand coming from Vietnam and China. The product is mostly smuggled by air, but routes change and shift depending on border controls and law enforcement resources.

Conservationists warn that this booming illegal trade has led to a precipitous decline in Africa's rhinoceros population: At least 7100 of the nation's rhinos have been killed over the past decade, according to one estimate, and only around 25,000 remain today. Meanwhile, Save the Rhino International, a UK-based conservation charity, told BBC News that if current poaching trends continue, rhinos could go extinct in the wild within the next 10 years.

[h/t BBC News]

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