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Farewell, Space Spider.
December 8, 2012 4:45 AM   Subscribe

Nefertiti, the jumping space spider, has died. Neffi (whose name means "the chosen one") apparently adapted from the typical hunting behavior of a redback jumping spider to that of her microgravity environment, "sidling up to her prey instead of leaping onto it".

Neffi survived the rigors of her mission to space as well as her re-entry to the atmosphere, but died after only a few days in Foggy Bottom, after being put on display at the Natural History Museum. The Smithsonian notes on their Facebook page that "the body of Neffi will be added to the museum’s collection of specimens where she will continue to contribute to the understanding of spiders."
posted by ellF (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Rip in peace spiderbro.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:51 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting links, There are many reasons I wouldn't be able to be an astronaut, but the relevant one today is that Nefertiti probably would have come to a zero-gravity end several months ago, at the business end of a rolled up space magazine. Seriously, being trapped in space with a red jumping spider would basically be a recreation of Alien for me.

Note: I am not proud of this.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:51 AM on December 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


good riddance

D:
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:53 AM on December 8, 2012


fun fact: the pages of space magazines are 30% thinner than regular magazines to save weight
posted by indubitable at 4:54 AM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


·..·
posted by drlith at 4:57 AM on December 8, 2012 [26 favorites]


at the business end of a rolled up space magazine.

Well, I suppose just putting it outside isn't really an improvement on this, from the spider's point of view.
posted by brennen at 5:19 AM on December 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


brennen: Outside? Are you crazy? I have seen enough 1950s sci-fi to know better than to subject the spider directly to potentially arachnid-enlargening space radiation.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:27 AM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I had missed this experiment until now. Interesting!
posted by rmd1023 at 5:29 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neffi (whose name means "the chosen one") apparently adapted from the typical hunting behavior of a redback jumping spider to that of her microgravity environment, "sidling up to her prey instead of leaping onto it".

Did Neffi also spell out "Some astronaut!" in her web?
posted by orange swan at 5:32 AM on December 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


I would have watched Nefi attempt to sidle up to her prey in 0-gee environment and laughed, because I am bad.
posted by angrycat at 6:01 AM on December 8, 2012


On the one hand:

"She was a jumping spider, which meant she hunted like a lion by leaping into the air, grabbing her prey with her front legs and digging into it with her fangs, injecting venom."

On the other hand:

"Nefi, the chosen one, was the size of a pencil eraser"

I'm gonna side with cute on this one.
posted by BlueJae at 6:03 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Tiebreaker;

And like most spiders, she ate by regurgitating stomach acid onto her food. The acid broke the tissues down into fluid, which she then sucked up, like a smoothie

posted by nathancaswell at 6:17 AM on December 8, 2012


I don't get why they are saying that the spider didn't jump at the prey. At 0:34 in the video, the spider clearly jumps head on. In fact the hunting behaviour looks so normal that I had to double check to see if the video was on the space station at all. (I study jumping spiders, and specifically prey capture behaviour in a related species.)
posted by dhruva at 6:18 AM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


It was a jumping spider (just typing that gives me that the willies) that could adapt to zero G environments?

KILL IT WITH FIRE would seem like the only rational response for me (for some values of "rational").

The next sci-fi horror flick I watch isn't going to seem nearly so far fetched now.
posted by dry white toast at 6:22 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are many more of us.
posted by nefi at 7:00 AM on December 8, 2012 [22 favorites]


Are you guys nuts? She was ADORABLE! So cute. Rest in peace, little astronaut.

(And when the first mosquito infestation breaks out in a space station, the people living there will be eternally grateful for these experiments.)
posted by kyrademon at 7:26 AM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 7:54 AM on December 8, 2012


I guess the NASA researchers hadn't seen this scene in the movie version of Lost in Space.
posted by Philofacts at 8:05 AM on December 8, 2012


It's not puzzling that one of my favorite astronauts is now a spider. No, it's puzzling that more than one of my heroes are spiders.

Seriously, I love the dignity in the PBS writeup. Nefi's an American hero.
posted by byanyothername at 8:33 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]



Spiders are awesome, and jumping spiders are extra cool! There are some that are lavender colored and hang out in flowers. I'm sorry she didn't get to live longer at the Smithsonian so that more people could learn about jumping spiders and this experiment.

I don't get why they are saying that the spider didn't jump at the prey. At 0:34 in the video, the spider clearly jumps head on.

Under normal conditions, she would have jumped from much further away.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:34 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]



Seriously, I love the dignity in the PBS writeup. Nefi's an American hero.

Yeah, I liked that too:

Nefertiti, the courageous space spider who soared into low-Earth orbit on a Japanese HTV spacecraft, spent three months hunting fruit flies aboard the International Space Station, and then returned to Earth alive, has died. She was 10 months old.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:35 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


By the way, I wholeheartedly approve of the "wearedoomed" tag, and am a little surprised that it's only been used one other time.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:45 AM on December 8, 2012


Neffi (whose name means "the chosen one")

I hate to pick nits and derail. Actually, no, I don't, it's an educational moment in a hobby subject of mine, Ancient Egyptian history and language.

Nefertiti. Fascinating character from a very strange time in Egypt, when Akhenaten threw out almost the entire corpus of egyptian religion and replaced it with a monotheistic worship of the sun disk, the Aten. She stands out in our mind because she's the subject of one of the most beautiful works of art in history, the Nefertiti bust, currently in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin. If this is a true representation of her, there's little doubt that she was named well.

As to that name -- the full name "Neferneferuaten Nefertiti".

The direct transliteration from the heiroglypics in a standard system (Allen 2000) is "Nfr nfrw itn Nfr.t jy.tj" Note that if you break the last name apart correctly, it's really "nefert i ti." The ".t" at the end of "nfr" is a standard symbol attached to female names, and there's some question on if it would be pronounced, if not, the name becomes Neferiti.

Nfr -- "nefer" -- is "beauty." So, a decent direct translation is Nefernerferuaten ="Beautiful is the Beauty of the Aten" and Nefertiti = "The Beautiful one manifests" or "The Beautiful Lady Manifests", the latter thanks to that t on the end of nfr, you can reasonably feminize the object* of the name.

A more common transliteration is "The Beautiful Lady Comes"**.

"The Chosen One" does appear in Egyptian Names. The prenomen***of Rameses II is "wsr-mAa.t-ra stp-n-ra", read as "Usermaatre Setepenre", or "The Truth**** of Re is Strong, The Chosen One of Re." So, "Setep" would be "The Chosen One."

End of derail. Oh, one more. Most western names don't translate well into ancient Egyptian, but there is one that does so very well. "dj.nfrt" which means "Beautiful for all time." Note the .t, so it's a female name, and the pronunciation, as far as we can tell, is either "jenefer" or "jenefert".

So, unlike most, Jennifer is not only easy to transliterate, it's a name the Egyptians would completely grok.

As to Nefertiti, the jumping spider:

.





* Get your mind out of the gutter.

** ibid.

*** The rules of Egypt had quite a few names. In order, there was the Horus Name, the Nebti Name, the Golden Horus name, the Prenomen and the Nomen, which we derive our name for the pharaoh. The Prenomen is much like a pope taking a new name when he ascends to the throne. The Egyptians would completely understand a name of the form "Servant of the Servants of God, John Paul II, Holy Pontiff, Karl Wojtyła."

**** Translating "maat" as truth is sort of right, but not completely. I think the closest to "maat" would be to paraphrase Superman -- "truth, justice, and the human way." Think of it as all the forms of the word true.
posted by eriko at 8:46 AM on December 8, 2012 [35 favorites]


Pretty spider! She logged more miles than I ever will. RIP.
posted by dragonplayer at 8:54 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seriously, being trapped in space with a red jumping spider would basically be a recreation of Alien for me.

I avoid most spiders - especially the big hobo spiders that can be up to 3" in diameter and terrorized me as a kid when they'd come in from the cold seeking shelter in our basement. And yet, I've had a fondness for jumping spiders. I'll happily play with them in my hands.

My 2-year-old daughter just happens to love spiders. She adopted one as a 'pet' that spun a web on the window in our house's entranceway this fall. She named her 'Lucy' and every day coming or going we'd say hi to her and track what she'd been eating. It made me think differently about them, and I'm glad our daughter has an open mind about such things.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:56 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


We launch our spacecraft from a swamp in Florida, so yes, there have been plenty of mosquitos in space.
posted by BeeDo at 9:13 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dear NASA: We don't want or need spiders that are adapted to space. Have you never seen a sci-fi horror movie? Does The Thing ring a bell? There are many possible theoretical outcomes to creating a race of space spiders, and none of them are good for the human race.
posted by Green Winnebago at 1:22 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


So happy to hear that exposure to microgravity does not make spiders humongous, just craftier.

Sooo Happy.
posted by djrock3k at 5:16 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


* sorry to see Neffertiti leave us. I am really fond of spiders. I rescue them. @ jimmythefish, your daughter sounds like my kind of kid.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:21 AM on December 9, 2012


Just watched the video of her. She was a particularly lovely little spider. Fun watching her snag that fly.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:36 AM on December 9, 2012


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