Arachnophobics beware: Researchers identify giant new spider species

Tue Oct 20, 8:47 PM

By Sheryl Ubelacker, The Canadian Press

For anyone who suffers from arachnophobia, it might be advisable to read no further.
That's because this is a story about a spider - a very BIG spider.
Researchers have discovered an entirely new species of arachnid, and its gargantuan female members represent the largest of its family ever found.
Dubbed Nephila komaci, this sucker has a tip-to-tip leg span of about 12 centimetres, including a body almost four centimetres wide. To get an idea how big that is, imagine the size of a man's hand or a small saucer.
"They look like they're all legs ... They live in webs, right, so they're spindly, relatively delicate spiders," said Jonathan Coddington, an arachnologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, one of the scientists who identified the new species.
"If you were standing there, you wouldn't say that. You would probably freak out. Most people do."

Like other giant golden orb weavers in its family, N. komaci spins a web that is equally impressive in size, measuring more than a metre in diameter.
"The webs are so strong that you bounce off," Coddington said Tuesday. "It's not a diaphanous experience."
He said the researchers aren't sure why the females grow so big (at one-fifth their size, the male of the species is positively puny). But he suggested that the bigger the spider, the more eggs it can lay in its lifetime, so size may confer an evolutionary advantage.
"They've probably outgrown most of their predators," Coddington said. Hummingbirds, which are known for plucking spiders off their webs while on the wing, "are too small to nail these guys. Bats could, too, but bats couldn't take something like this."

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