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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Space Spider

News item in today's paper about a jumping spider that was sent to space by an Egyptian student.  Poor Nefertiti, as she was named by the student, died soon after returning from her 10 month sojourn aboard the International Space Station.  The experiment's purpose was to study the effect of low gravity on the feeding success of non-web building jumping spiders.

I was glad to read that the space travelling spider was able to adapt to the new conditions and hunt and feed during her trip, even if she had to be satisfied with fruit flies.   Article's title seems to be in error, since as stated in the last paragraph the spider will actually be added to the National Museum of Natural History's spider collection rather than residing in heaven.  Unless you believe spiders have immortal souls etc.

Another question about this story is how the Egyptian student (studying in Alexandria) came to acquire a specimen of Phidippus johnsoni, a species found in North America not Africa.  Is there international trade in jumping spiders?  Maybe he got the spider while visiting Washington DC when he won the competition.

Arachnophobes here on Earth and in space-- consider these words the next time you think about squishing a spider that has successfully navigated the ever-changing and dangerous world to reach the inner sanctum of your abode:

The Smithsonian said that the loss of Nefertiti, "a special animal that inspired so many imaginations," would be felt throughout the museum community.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I heard about this yesterday. Your question about how an Egyptian kid got a hold of a North American spider got me curious, so I googled around a little bit. Though they didn't say so outright, the articles seem to imply that the student merely submitted the winning idea for the spider experiment, but the execution, including obtaining a spider, was handled by NASA scientists.