Photo Adventures with Curiosity and Learning

A gift from Steve and Susan: a dancing and weaving Navphila clavipes

Susan just showed up in mid September at Steve and Susan's place She was a standard banana spider (Nephila clavipes) in her behavior - i.e. rebuilding approximately half her web each morning, and feasting during the day and night on anything that flew into her golden web. But because she is near my home, she provides new opportunities to observe. Earlier this summer I discovered the high frequency body vibration, apparently a defensive response, in juvenile banana spiders. So I decided to test whether this high frequency response was preserved in adults. The simple answer is yes and it can be induced by plucking one of the support threads of the web. But the vibration frequency is very slow - perhaps 2-4 Hz - since she has a rather massive body to swing back and forth.

I really enjoy watching orb weavers weave and nothing is more beautiful, graceful and elegant than the weaving ballet of the golden silk spider. These photos are early morning and late afternoon. The weaving starts close to sunrise when the light is dim. I used a flash and bounce it off the wall behind the web. Here are videos of weaving and photos of Susan weaving as well as Susan just being Susan.

A surprise - I observed that Susan has preserved something of her childhood dance - first observed with Laura. As a child, Laura vibration (I believe its a response to predators) was very fast, perhaps 40 - 50 Hz. Susan, being a mature adult, has put away some of her childish behavior, has grown, is rather massive but still exhibits this vibratory behavior. When I gently pluck once a supporting thread of her web, she initiates about a 2 - 4 Hz somewhat irregular side-to-side rocking motion. Below are videos of Susan starting and ending her dance.

Susan enjoying the sun (click any image for a large presentation)

Eating a tasty bee

In my launching position - waiting for dinner

Weaving: Note (click on the photo) how she uses her legs to guide the silk from the spinneret (see also exploring spinnerets with microscopy) to the proper place for gluing to a radial fiber

More weaving - note that she uses the 4 legs nearest her head to guide herself around the web while using the other 4 legs to guide the silk from her spinneret and attach it to the appropriate web radial elements. Who taught her to weave with such grace and beauty?

A wonderful and delicate ballet

Weaving with a careful look at that is going on

In my launching position - waiting, just patiently waiting (for something yummy)

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C. Frank Starmer