The Nightmare Is Real: It's Raining Spiders in Australia

Image Credit: Nephila edulis by dilettantiquity, Flickr // CC BY SA 2.0

Arachnophobes, grab an umbrella. In one Australian town, it’s been raining spiders.

Let that sink in: Spiders. Falling. From. The. Sky.

The phenomenon, while inspiring for any would-be sci-fi horror writers out there, is a fairly routine part of spider migration that has been observed by scientists since Darwin’s time. In Goulburn, Australia, 120 miles from Sydney, residents recently described seeingthis tunnel of webs going up for a couple of hundred meters into the sky.” The town was transformed into one big web-covered haunted house as black baby spiders fell from the air like snow.  

To migrate, spiders send out silk threads that catch the wind and lift them aloft. They don’t have any control over where they go, but can travel hundreds of miles, even landing on islands in the middle of the ocean (which might be why the eight-legged creatures can be found all over the world). A 2013 study by a University of Hawaii physicist postulated that the spiders may also harness the Earth’s electrostatic forces to fly even when there isn’t wind. 

Check out what a sky full of spiders looks like in this (admittedly shaky) video:

Ballooning is typically a seasonal behavior seen among small, young spiders, but on rare occasions larger adult spiders also cast out their silk and take off [PDF]. Such migrations are common in southeastern Australia, and have also been seen in recent years in Texas and Brazil. Nowhere in the world is safe from spider rain. 

[h/t: Treehugger]

A Dracula Ant's Jaws Snap at 200 Mph—Making It the Fastest Animal Appendage on the Planet

Ant Lab, YouTube
Ant Lab, YouTube

As if Florida’s “skull-collecting” ants weren’t terrifying enough, we’re now going to be having nightmares about Dracula ants. A new study in the journal Royal Society Open Science reveals that a species of Dracula ant (Mystrium camillae), which is found in Australia and Southeast Asia, can snap its jaws shut at speeds of 90 meters per second—or the rough equivalent of 200 mph. This makes their jaws the fastest part of any animal on the planet, researchers said in a statement.

These findings come from a team of three researchers that includes Adrian Smith, who has also studied the gruesome ways that the skull-collecting ants (Formica archboldi) dismember trap-jaw ants, which were previously considered to be the fastest ants on record. But with jaw speeds of just over 100 miles per hour, they’re no match for this Dracula ant. (Fun fact: The Dracula ant subfamily is named after their habit of drinking the blood of their young through a process called "nondestructive cannibalism." Yikes.)

Senior author Andrew Suarez, of the University of Illinois, said the anatomy of this Dracula ant’s jaw is unusual. Instead of closing their jaws from an open position, which is what trap-jaw ants do, they use a spring-loading technique. The ants “press the tips of their mandibles together to build potential energy that is released when one mandible slides across the other, similar to a human finger snap,” researchers write.

They use this maneuver to smack other arthropods or push them away. Once they’re stunned, they can be dragged back to the Dracula ant’s nest, where the unlucky victims will be fed to Dracula ant larvae, Suarez said.

Researchers used X-ray imaging to observe the ants’ anatomy in three dimensions. High-speed cameras were also used to record their jaws snapping at remarkable speeds, which measure 5000 times faster than the blink of a human eye. Check out the ants in slow-motion in the video below.

Plano, Texas Is Now Home to a Dog-Friendly Movie Theater

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 newly opened K9 Cinemas invites moviegoers—both human and canine—to watch classic films on the big screen.

The theater operates as a pop-up (or perhaps pup-up?) in a private event space near Custer Road and 15th Street in Plano. On the weekends, patrons can pay $5 for dogs, $9 for kids, and $12.50 for adults to see popular movies in the 50-seat space. 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).

K9 Cinemas is currently showing Elf (2003) and Home Alone (1990) for the holiday season. Dog and movie enthusiasts can buy tickets online now, or wait until January when the theater upgrades from padded chairs to couches for optimized puppy snuggle time.

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