Sunday, December 31, 2006

Seeing Double


A stiff breeze cuts low across the hayfield as I march towards the pineywoods. There on one thick waving strand of hay I see something. Hanging midways up the strand is what appears to be two pretty good sized wolf spiders, both suspended motionless except for when the breeze touches them. I kneel down for a closer look only to find that it's not two spiders,but one. The other "spider" was nothing more than the molted skin of the other....an exact replica.

Spiders have no inner skeletons, but instead have what is known as an exoskeleton or outer skeleton. They molt or shed (ecdysis) this exoskeleton as they grow doing this up to a dozen times before they reach maturity. The shed exoskeleton is replaced by a fresh one which in the beginning is soft and takes awhile to harden. The spider must remain still during this time which makes it vulnerable to both predators and the elements. To watch a tarantula molt go here.

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