Here there be spiders.

The Gulf of Mannar coast of Tamil Nadu is a rather interesting place, even outside of all the critter pics from there that I’ve been putting up. Falling largely in the shadow of the Western Ghats, the whole region is quite arid in nature.

Back in the ’70s and ’80s, mad pamphleteers and “development experts” spearheaded this massive effort to promote seeding of Prosopis juliflora, a large, thorny and wholly unpleasant shrub. Hailing it as the saviour of our deserts and the provider of alternative livelihoods, Prosopis was promoted with reckless abandon, touted as a great source for charcoal, firewood and all things wonderful.

Today, Prosopis is a highly invasive species that’s spreading everywhere. The shrub (I say shrub, but really, they’re these low-slung trees that form a vast and impregnable network of branches that can spread across quite an area,) cannot be eaten by livestock of any stripe.

Such trivial things can never stop spiders, though. On Prosopis bushes by the sea in Keelamundal on the Ramanathapuram coast, I found the highest density of spiders anywhere, thus far. On most bushes, I could find more than multiple spiders in every cubic foot of space. To get one on my camera, I had to be really careful in not brushing through the webs of several others.

In the picture below, you can see a juvenile female Argiope in focus, an adult female at the bottom, and two diminuitive males of the same species out of focus on either side.


And if you take my word for it, there were some half a dozen more spiders to my right, some below the picture and several all around. Who knows, maybe even Cross spiders are as rampantly invasive as the shrubs that harbour them.

Continue reading “Here there be spiders.”

Here there be spiders.

You live and learn.

At any rate, you live.

27656517-Argiope_losing_a_waspWe often paint these pictures in our minds of nature, red in tooth and claw, but it is not so.

Be it a pride of lions, a school of sharks or a lone, young spider – the tale is the same. The prey are numerous, they often get away, and the “big bad predators” have to stay hungry a lot of the time.

Above is a snapshot of a wasp (or a fly of some sort) getting away from the clutches of a juvenile Argiope spider. You can see the little white bit of spider silk it’s all but gotten itself out of. The wasp was flying around quite woozily for a while afterwards, having been bitten at least a little by the spider, but clearly not enough to succumb.

The first two tiles of the collage illustrate how the spider can switch between sides of the web, through a little hole that I had described earlier.

Continue reading “You live and learn.”

You live and learn.