Tag Archives: freaky

Ichneumon wasps: evidence against religion or just mean sons of Bi*%*!s ?

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Darwin once offered  the ichneumon wasp as proof against the central tenets of natural theology, which believed in the creation of all living things by a benevolent god. Expressing his opinion  in a letter to American botanist Asa Gray, Darwin wrote:  “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae.” 

What form of animal behavior could be so abhorrent that its existence alone could stand as proof against divinity? Dear readers, the author of BV would like to warn you that what follows should not be repeated to small children, nor the highly suggestible, lest they– like the author herself– suffer recurring nightmares because of it. Even those strong of stomach, beware:  no zombie movie could prepare you for this one.

Ichneuman wasps are what is called “parasitoids:”  the wasp selects a nice, juicy looking victim, lands, and with a flick of her stilleto-sharp  ovipositor,  injects her eggs forcibly into the host’s vulnerable body. Not leaving anything to chance, she will then inject a paralytic, a poison that paralyzes the victim without killing it.

Then, keeping the living incubator alive as long as possible, the newly-hatched young first eat their host’s fatty deposits and digestive organs, before moving on to the choicest- and most fatal- morsels: the heart and central nervous system. 

I believe, dear reader, that the proper response to this is:

 evolutionary-disgust

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Filed under backyard fauna, parasites, Phobia-inducing

Jumping Spiders (family Salticidae)*

 

This creature, which resembles a friendly member of the Muppets, is actually an agressive hunter.

This creature, which resembles a friendly member of the Muppets, is actually an agressive hunter.

There are as many as 5,000 species in family Salticidae, more than in any other family of spiders .  All the more fodder for arachnphobic catatonia.  In contrast to their numbers, of course,  is the size of individual members of family Salticidae, which average less than 2cm in length (though the females are typically larger than the males. Females are usually scarier anyway, if you ask for the author’s humble opinion).

Jumping spiders are agre3ssive little buggers: as  active rather than passive hunters, these  hunters jump by means of specialized internal hydraulics,  like little Gangstamobiles,  causing  their legs to extend forcefully and rapidly, propelling them into the air and across long distances. Characteristically, a jumping spider creeps towards its prey, crouches, inches its forelegs towards its target, and… (GULP!)  pounces,  covering distances as great as  30cm (one foot, and 15x its own body length). See figure B, below.

Were these facts not enough to secure the jumping spider’s place in B.V.’s  list of the most awe-inspiring and nightmare-inducing creatures, family Salticidae is also cannabalistic, often preying on their web-making spidey bretheren. Watch out, spiderman.
The jumping spider in action. The writer of B.V. will have arachnophobic dreams for weeks on the strength of this image.

figure B: The jumping spider in action. The writer will have arachnaphobic dreams for weeks on the strength of this image.

* NB: this installment of B.V. is dedicated to Lowly_Adjunct (aka. K.E.); oh you who perversly loves spiders, enjoy– this one’s for you.

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Filed under backyard fauna, Phobia-inducing, Uncategorized