By Friedrich G. Barth
Spiders are exceptional creatures. Their diverse and intricate diversity of habit and hugely built sensory structures are excellently tailored to the environmental stipulations - as is confirmed by means of their evolutionary good fortune. Over four hundred million years, spiders have constructed their sensory organs to a desirable technical perfection and complexity.
In his fascinating booklet, Professor Friedrich G. Barth places this technical perfection into the context of "biology", within which the interplay among surroundings and sensory organs and the selectivity of the senses as a hyperlink among surroundings and behaviour play a big function.
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Extra resources for A Spider's World: Senses and Behavior
I The Poisons Wolfgang Nentwig and his colleagues at the Zoological Inistitute of the University of Bern in Switzerland, in particular Thomas Friedel, who later came to my laboratory in Vienna, subjected the poison of Cupiennius salei to a variety of analyses. For such tests, too, this species is very useful because of its size and the ease with which it can be bred and kept in the laboratory. The two venom glands are of the "endocephalous" type according to the old classification by Millot (1931}; this type is also characteristic of the Pisauridae, Agelenidae, Linyphiidae, Lycosidae and Pholcidae.
The species dangerous to humans mainly belong to only five genera. Even though the spiders' prey is subdued by their venom, an injection into a person - very unlikely to occur in the first place - would give reason for sorrow in only a small percentage of cases. This should not come as a surprise, because we are by nature neither prey nor predators of spiders. In Europe, at least, I think it is more probable that a person will be struck by lightning than be hurt by a spider bite. The large, hairy bird spiders, which appear so threatening to the layman, have relatively small poison glands and hence are ordinarily not dangerous to us, although a bite by their massive chelicerae may present an appreciable risk of infection.
The chelicerae of Cupiennius sa lei. Arrows point to openings of venom gland duct at the tip of the fangs. Bar 100 11m The Poisons orientalis, Cupiennius salei was roughly in the middle of the range of toxicity measured as LD 50 (Fig. 2). From figure 3 it can be seen that when the test animal is taken away from the spider as soon as it has been bitten, after 24 hours prey weighing less than 40 mg have a mortality ;:: 50% (Boeve 1994). 2 and 150 nl among the 18 spider species tested. Cupiennius salei belongs to the group with poison that most quickly causes immobility.
A Spider's World: Senses and Behavior by Friedrich G. Barth