Black Widow Spiders, a horror story writers best friend, are characterised by their creepy, spindly legs, bulbous black body and red skull-like markings. A single bite can send a human into weeks of immense pain, nausea and vomiting.
Unsurprisingly, the hunt for a reliable antidote has been heavily sought after. Surprisingly, Andis Graudins reveals the most reliable cure is actually from the spiders themselves.
Infact, widow spiders actively produce the antivenom to their own bite to prevent self poisoning. The antivenom can then be extracted and used on infected patients.
Andis injected mice with a combination of venom and antivenom and dripped the concoctions onto muscle fibre from a dead chick.
When injected with venom, the muscle fibre twitched violently. The mice became withdrawn for ten minutes before breathing slowed, body tremors begun and finally hours of hind leg paralysis. With the spiders own antivenom however, all effects were prevented
Andis has shown that the widow spider’s bite can be treated with its own antivenom. However, more research is needed due to a string of severe allergic reactions that have prevented its widespread use across the US.
All movie and picture book dinosaurs paint a clear picture of dinosaur behaviour in our heads. The T. rex a big mean eating machine and the diplodocus a painfully slow giant that laboriously grinds the leaves of tall trees.
Remarkably, 99.9% of the time all our information comes from a single bone. Making conclusions is like guessing the picture of a 1000 piece jigsaw after only completing the border.
So how do they do it? Paleontologist Michael Benton explains three ways…
The first is to look at modern animals and compare. Simply, living animals with sharp teeth are almost always predators, therefore a dinosaur fossil with sharp teeth is probably a predator.
Second, observe the closest living relatives to dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds. For example, it is safe to say the T. rex had eyes of some description, as both crocodiles and birds also have eyes.
Lastly, using biomechanical modelling. Michael found the muscle power needed for the T. rex to run 42MPH, as previously thought, would be like a 6 tonne, T. rex sized chicken with 5 tonne legs. 42MPH it seems, is a wild overestimate.
I’m not going to try and understand how Michael can tell so much from a couple of bones, but either way, a 6 tonne chicken is a pretty scary thought.
In many spider species the female has been observed to eat the male after mating. Scientist Maydianne Andrade tells a bizarre story of male Redback Spiders deliberately somersaulting themselves into the hairy jaws of the spindly legged, bulbous bodied females.
Why would our tiny male, a close relative of the black widow spider, deliberately allow the female to eat him?
Maydianne explains how he doesn’t eat after reaching maturity and so will only live for a few months. Therefore, he normally only mates once in his lifetime and so will do anything in his power to be the father of her offspring.
By providing the female with a hearty, spider shaped meal, the female is far less likely to mate again. Moreover, whilst being eaten alive, his sperm has double the time to fertilize her eggs.
Counterintuitive behavior has been seen before, such as the giving of gifts, but could there be a more bizarre story than redback spiders acrobatically somersaulting themselves to their own death?