A Silver Lining

The animal world is a hunt and be hunted sort of place. In this, there’s a silver lining: God’s care and mercy is evidenced by the defense mechanisms of His creatures, both great and small.

I didn’t know what I was witnessing when I spotted a six-legged spider in the backyard yesterday evening. At the time, all I saw was a bright yellow and black spider hanging from a web that was waving in the late summer breeze.

A little follow-up research revealed that this spider was an Argiope aurantia, (pronounced ahr-JY-oh-pee our-RAN-chee-uh), classified in 1833 by Hippolyte Lucas. The name is Latin: “with bright face” (Argiope); “overlaid with gold” (aurantia). Its common name is “yellow garden spider”—an equally descriptive and slightly more practical designation for the current times. [1]

Yellow_Garden_Spider__Durham

Pictured here is a female yellow garden spider. These spiders have long legs and eight eyes (yes, eyes). According to the spiders.us website, not only do they prey on insects that get intercepted by the web, they can tackle grasshoppers, and “they have even been known to capture lizards (e.g. Cokendolpher 1977).” — photo taken in Durham County, NC

Spiders have eight legs by nature. (If you spot something with six, it’s usually not a spider at all, but rather an insect that looks a lot like a spider.) Naturally, I was curious to discover why this spider had only six legs. Here’s what I found:

Essentially, these critters have quick-release appendages that snap off at the least tug from a predator. …When a predator seizes a leg, the appendage pops off at its base and usually continues to twitch for some time, occupying the offending predator, which fancies itself a successful hunter. [2]

This self-amputation is referred to as autotomy. The good news is that if the spider hasn’t reached adulthood, the leg(s) will be replaced during subsequent molts (or the shedding of its outer layer).

Yellow_Garden_Spider__underside_Durham_NC

The underside of a female yellow garden spider is mottled black with two vertical, parallel yellow stripes. In this photo, you can also see a zig-zag band of silk streaming down from the web. This is a customary feature of a yellow spider’s web and is referred to as stabilimentum.  — Durham, NC

Remember how I described the web that I saw as moving in the breeze? As it turns out, there was more to it than that:

 This spider will rapidly shake and vibrate in its web as a defensive strategy to scare predators off. The shaking blurs the spider and makes it appear bigger than it really is. [3]

After a spell, the spider settled down and I was able to take some pictures. She was either exhausted or finally realized that I was not a threat. I was simply a harmless silly heart with camera in hand once again.


[1] http://www.spiders.us/species/argiope-aurantia/
[2] https://answersingenesis.org/evidence-for-creation/design-in-nature/divinely-designed-defenses/
[3] http://www.spiders.us/species/argiope-aurantia/

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