Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dances with Wolf Spiders



I've recently begun the tedious task of scanning several thousand 35mm. colour transparencies, accumulated over the last 40 years, and thought I'd post a few as I go along. Yesterday, when I was scanning transparencies of arachnids I found these, showing wolf spider courtship. When we moved into our house 25 years ago the garden was just a lawn, a few conifers, a vegetable patch - and a pile of broken paving stones that were the favoured arena for wolf spiders' courtship on warm summer days. This ritual is, of necessity on the part of the male (in the foreground here), a cautious and patient process because he is so much smaller than the female (in the background). He woos her by waving those little black palps on his head, using them like semaphore flags, and his task is to persuade her that he's a worthy potential mate rather than a convenient meal.  As he signals nervously he inches forward, a step at a time.. 


..... and at this point, if she turns nasty, he'll need to leg it pretty swiftly. He tends to move forward a millimetre at a time, she advances in rapid and unpredictable lunges and, with those long legs, she can cover a lot of ground in the blink of an eye. Fortunately for him, spiders don't blink.


The object of his desires. Beautiful, I suppose, if you're a male wolf spider. Those annular highlights in her eyes are the reflection of a ring flash, by the way...



If he gets this close and is still in one piece, then it's probably his lucky day.....


..... and for the next few weeks she'll be carrying around this ball of eggs in a silken cocoon, attached to her abdomen. She spends a lot of time sunbathing, hastening the hatching process, punctuated by grabbing anything edible that's reckless enough to venture within lunging distance. Finally, when hatching day arrives ....


...... in a remarkable display of maternal care, all her little spiderlings climb onto her abdomen and hang on for dear life for a week, until they can fend for themselves. 


More wolf spider pictures here.

6 comments:

  1. Great photos. I too have a loft full of slides but I've managed to scan in most of the important natural history ones. Next there will be landscapes, then people, then... I think I need to negotiate some sort of life extension with Him up there.

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    1. I know what you mean John, it's a daunting task ...... and then there are all those prints to scan too .....

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  2. Brilliant photos, You've started a task that I've been putting off for years.

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    1. I just hope I've got the stamina to finish the task David!

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  3. Fascinating.
    Glad I'm not a wolf spider. A risky way to satisfy your desires.

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