Jul. 18th, 2012

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Last night I went up to run a bath and started the water running and put the blue bubbles in and when I looked around there was a little spider (Pholcus sp) in the froth, I think it was a baby P. Phalangioides. It was horribly encumbered and looked dead: its legs were clumped together and against its body in a diamond shape. I was stupid because I usually check, but I wasn't thinking.

Anyway, I scooped the thing out with a bit of froth and put it on the white tile shelf under the triptych vanity mirror. I know from surprises in the past that sometimes all that these motes need is a bit of drying out time. So I got a bit of loo roll, and divided away the froth not under the chap and then tried to wick the water out from closer to the body. The spider was still completely inert.

After a few accidental upskittlings that I thought would do for him, I managed to blow his body up enough to quickly skit some loo-roll under his body. SLS is nasty stuff, whatever the packaging says, and I thought that spiders had trachaeal systems like insects that mean they could easily drown or by poisoned by even a narrow covering of foamy bath stuff. Turns out I was wrong, Pholcus spp have bookungs but, anyway, drying out asap seemed in order.

Once all the water was plausibly soaked up on the body the spider was still inert. So I was thinking of giving up at this point, but then I realised that the spiders legs were probably still all bound together by surface tension, making it unable to move. Now this was a bit worrying because I know spider knees are incredibly delicate, biologically. If you think how prone to injury and easy to permanently damage human knees are, think of the thing shrunk down to the size of a spider with thread-like legs and eight times as many joints.

I thought there wasn't much to be lost at this point, but I discovered another problem I'd not anticipated: it's hard to tell which order the legs should go in. I don't have a microscope in the bathroom (not surprisingly), so I did my best, but all the time was thinking of the massive lateral and otherwise inappropriate forces I must be putting on the spider's joints. In the end, I got the legs on the right side and separate but not necessarily in the right order and in a broad arch shape at its two joints. The body was still plonked on the tile. There were only seven legs.

So at this point, there was not much to do, but I blew on it a little part as a provocation I guess. Anyway, the front legs start wiggling and at first I thought it was with my breath, but in the end I was pretty sure it was moving by internal means, but the movement was intermittent, limited to two legs and convulsive. At this point it's kind of depressing because it looks like it's just death throes. So I go to finish off the bath temperature. The tiles have a translucent surface and it's hard from the bath to see where the surface is and a couple of times I thought the body suspended in the air, in the manner of a living spider, only to find it plonked on the deck.

But the third time, I find the body is actually a few millimetres above the glass of the tile. It looked kind of hopeful at this point because it was either a cruel trick of dying or an act of volition. Then, to my amazement, the spider started stamping on the tile with each of its legs in turn. I suppose it served some purpose for the spider. This was all pretty exciting. It's didn't seem to be losing any hemolymph (to the extent you can tell for such small a beast!). Maybe they are better at losing limbs than us bigger animals.

The spider started moving off but at each cycle in its gait it fell plonk onto the tile again, presumably due to the amputated leg (rhs, one from the front). The thing depressingly struggled slowly across the tiles each time crashing to the ground.

But then, amazingly, it discovered some gait which meant it stayed aloft, initially only judderingly, but increasingly with dexterity. Anyway, the spider sat on a bottle of bathroom stuff, and I left it to it. A few minutes later, the spider had gone, off on its way to do whatever seven-legged spiders do.

I'm posting this because I want to encourage people to try if they are inclined, not to be downhearted by fantasies of futility.


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