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This Skydiving Spider Can Target You From Above

by James Hunt

We recently saw that certain species of spider can walk on water, but now it seems that there's yet another way arachnophobes can be surprised by the object of their nightmares: from above. Because biologists have just discovered that a species of spider common across the globe can apparently skydive.

As observed in Panama and Peru, the gliding spiders are nocturnal hunters about two inches long and can actually steer in mid-air while falling, allowing them to return to the tree from which they originally leapt. This raises many questions, not the least of which is whether the spiders can actually see the tree thanks to acute vision, or if they're navigating using some other sense.

The spider is from the genus Selenops, which is named after Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon. The suffix -ops (as in optics) refers to its moon-like eyes. The genus exists all over the world, with 115 known species that look nearly identical, but it's not yet clear whether they all have the ability to glide or that trait is specific just the South American varieties. If the trait is common, it could mean that gliding spiders exist on almost every continent.

Researchers studied 59 individual spiders, each of which showed some gliding ability. They attribute this trait to the species' "wafer thin," flexible frames, and their ability to spread their legs in order to strategically "steer" while falling. (They can even right themselves if they become inverted mid-descent.)

Robert Dudley, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, points out that studying this type of behavior may allow humans to build robots that can perform similar feats in the future. And frankly, building robots that can defend us against skydiving spiders sounds like a good idea to us.

[h/t Phys.org]

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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