Spiders have a body consisting of two parts, the abdomen and the prosoma. They have four pairs of legs and six to eight ‘simple’ eyes. They do not have any antennae, wings or true jaws. They are found in every habitat of Australia, from the harsh deserts of our arid interior to the slopes and rocky outcrops of our snow capped mountains. Even though most spiders have four pair of eyes, they can only see about 1cm in front of themselves. Even spiders that are described as having particularly good eyesight, (Wolf Spiders, Huntsmen and Jumping Spiders) can only see a few centimeters. Spiders rely very much on their other senses to detect predators and prey.
From the magnificently constructed and refined wheel webs that sprawl between the leaves of garden shrubs catching the dew-drops and sun of a new day, to the messy, silken spread that radiates towards the entrance of the Funnel-web’s tunnel, no other animal is dependant upon silk as much as the spider. For most spiders, silk aids in the capture of prey. Spiders use silk not only in the formation of webs, but in a variety of applications such as the construction of retreats and shelters. Some hibernate in a chamber of silk, whilst others use it as a lining for their burrows. Many wrap their prey in silken threads and store these bundles in a disused part of the web.
HUMAN USE OF SILK
Silk is not only used by animals such as spiders, but by humans as well. Although quite impractical in this day and age, spider silk was once used to manufacture royal garments and fishing nets.
A beautiful maiden, named Arachne was famous throughout the whole of Ancient Greece for her skill as a weaver of fine fabrics and embroidered tapestries. So famous did she become that Athene, goddess of the Arts, became extremely jealous. Believing that she was the finest weaver in the whole of Greece, she challenged Arachne to a “weave off.” Both women tested their skill against one another. Arachne was the winner. Resentfully, Athene tore the fruits of Arachne’s labor into shreds. With her beautiful work destroyed, Arachne took her own life. Athene was so filled with remorse that she brought Arachne back from the dead in the form of a spider. Arachne’s name lives on today, through that large group of creepy crawlies we call ‘Arachnids.’
The dispersal of spiders, their wide spread distribution and the early colonization of isolated areas can be attributed to some spiders’ ability to balloon! When such a spider or spiderling wishes to travel, it raises its abdomen and releases a copious amount of liquid silk which dries immediately. The silk is caught by the breeze and lifts the spider into the sky.