Wired admires inspired spiders
December 19, 2012 11:53 AM   Subscribe

It is common behavior for humans to develop an avatar to present a larger-than-life version of themselves on the web, often as a defense mechanism. For the first time, this activity has been observed in another species.
posted by oulipian (48 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not much longer before we find the spider that can write "Some Pig", eh?
posted by Catblack at 11:55 AM on December 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


But then the flaky spider started moving.

This may be the best sentence I have read this year.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:59 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the web, huh? Very clever, oulipian. Very clever indeed.
posted by Michael Roberts at 12:03 PM on December 19, 2012 [22 favorites]


Please let them find bees that make a Wickerbee.
posted by frecklefaerie at 12:04 PM on December 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I've been building enormous replicas of myself out of my own excrement for years, and I didn't get no profile in Wired.
posted by griphus at 12:04 PM on December 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


Wow, talk about burying the lede. Sheesh, this is a spider that makes freaking decoy spiders, and you're talking about online avatars?
posted by Malor at 12:05 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Damn, evolution is amazing! What kind of selection pressure led the spiders in that particular area to make more realistic decoys than the rest of their species? And is it still going on? If the researchers come back in fifty years, maybe they'll have entire miniature dioramas in those webs.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:07 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


on the web

ಠ_ಠ
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:07 PM on December 19, 2012 [15 favorites]


I'm not usually very arachnophobic, but something about gives me a slight terror-feeling than I can't quite figure out.

I guess it's because I'm not scared of spiders because, duh, they're just stupid insects who are more scared of us than we are of them, but giving them any sort of human-like skills...

though I guess I should be freaked out that they can make such webs at all... and now I hate spiders. Thanks, Metafilter!

On Preview: Miniature spider dioramas, for some reason, aren't scary at all. Come into my parlor said the spider to a fly -- and it's actually a mini-parlor! That would be awesome.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:11 PM on December 19, 2012


stupid insects superintelligent arachnids
posted by oulipian at 12:13 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Note to Google: Spidering Web 3.0 may just kill us all.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:20 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay; who else, before clicking on the link, thought "Cats. Has to be cats."?
posted by Wordshore at 12:26 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The musical? Naw... the spiders are way too advanced for that.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:28 PM on December 19, 2012


What a tangled web we weave, complete with decoys to deceive!
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 12:35 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems effective as an arachnologist lure.
posted by stebulus at 12:37 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The spiders are actually putting together a production of the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark musical, but there have been a number of delays due to budget overruns and casting problems.
posted by oulipian at 12:37 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I can secure an art grant for a replica of Julie Taymor built entirely out of spider webbing.
posted by griphus at 12:39 PM on December 19, 2012


“They could be quite locally restricted,” he said. “But for all I know, there’s millions of them in the forest beyond.” The spiders’ webs were crafted around face-height, near the trail, and about the width of a stretched-out hand.

That there is Lovecraft-level horror writing.
posted by MrVisible at 12:40 PM on December 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


This reminds me of nothing so much as the spider in The Last Unicorn whose web Mommy Fortune enchanted to appear to have caught the moon—an illusion strengthened by the spider really believing the moon was caught there.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:54 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Awesome! Can I have one?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:12 PM on December 19, 2012


Wow. The SCP wiki just got one step closer to reality.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:14 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been building enormous replicas of myself out of my own excrement for years, and I didn't get no profile in Wired.

Are you including the remains of other dead humans and animals? That's key.
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:17 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not arachnophobic, but this story has me fucking chilled. My internal monologue, while reading it, was basically just humming this.
posted by gauche at 1:18 PM on December 19, 2012


Wait, wait, wait, wait, WAIT... Are we absolutely sure this article wasn't written by a spider? That would be just like the tricky little fuckers!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:25 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do you mean the original article, or this MetaFilter FPP? Can spiders physically pay the $5 fee to join MetaFilter (do they have PayPal accounts?), or do they have to wait until there's a free joining period?
posted by Wordshore at 1:28 PM on December 19, 2012


I keep imagining them as the spider version of this guy.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:37 PM on December 19, 2012


I love spiders. This is cool.

For those who hate spiders, I am happy to present this.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:17 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I know this totally falls into "yeah, the experts described in the article probably fucking thought of this already, numbnuts" territory, but isn't it possible that the spider is building little structures in that shape for some completely unrelated reason, and that the scientists are just reading spider-shape into it?
posted by threeants at 2:25 PM on December 19, 2012


I clicked and as the page was loading my brain caught up and parsed the sentence to mean spider. I closed the tab just in time. *shudder*
posted by k8lin at 3:07 PM on December 19, 2012


Yo, NUBS, I too love spiders and thank you for the delightful link!
posted by kinnakeet at 3:09 PM on December 19, 2012


threeants: "isn't it possible that the spider is building little structures in that shape for some completely unrelated reason, and that the scientists are just reading spider-shape into it?"

Substitute "predators" for "scientists" and you've got a very good model for how this kind of behavior could evolve. The spiders don't need to know what they're doing. They just need to make shapes out of junk, for whatever reason, or for no reason at all. The more spider-like the decoy, the more likely that particular spider is to avoid being eaten. Fast forward a few thousand generations, and voila! You've got some very advanced decoy-sculpting behaviors, regardless of why they started doing it in the first place.
posted by otherthings_ at 3:14 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I thought spiders were already scary. *shudder*
posted by deborah at 3:44 PM on December 19, 2012


I just had the saddest thought about a lonely little spider building a friend on his web.

"Oh, we're going to have so much fun, you and I! I'll show you all around the web! Over here is where a really big fly got stuck just last week! I'm thinking of expanding this area over here to give us some more room! You're just going to love it, I'm sure!"
posted by orme at 3:45 PM on December 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


3 parts scarecrow, 2 parts creepy marionette, 1 part homunculi, 1 part scary anglerfish from Finding Nemo, 1 part matryoshka doll = recipe for new spider species to keep me awake at night in simultaneous fear and fascination.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:55 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


That decoy--it really ties the web together.
posted by hexatron at 4:04 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fast forward a few thousand generations, and voila! You've got some very advanced decoy-sculpting behaviors, regardless of why they started doing it in the first place.

Except that decoy spider has 8 "legs" so either we go with your hypothesis, or accept that spiders can count. Which is either the coolest thing ever, or completely horrifying.
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:40 PM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


billyfleetwood: "Except that decoy spider has 8 "legs" so either we go with your hypothesis, or accept that spiders can count. Which is either the coolest thing ever, or completely horrifying."

There are other ways to make a certain number of things than to know how to count. It's not like spider genes know how to count, but they get to eight legs anyway.

Anyway, this is extremely cool. I can't wait for the spiders to build a marionette replica of your missing friend and walk it past camp just at the edge of the campfire's light, to lure you into following.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:15 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now I'm imagining that these used to be the normal "build a little ball" decoy spiders until one particularly clever weaver, in a long family line of progressively smart and lucky arachnids, drew the vague conclusion that it was not a mere ball but had a number of extensions, legs, coming from its own body. Perhaps this spider's first creations had only 1 leg. Perhaps it had several.
But that it eventually learned to use -8-...

Also, do they look down upon the other spiders and sneer?
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:42 PM on December 19, 2012


This is terrific (especially that the spider shakes the decoy), and so's the FPP phrasing. Well done.
posted by davejay at 10:31 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best of the web indeed.
posted by mazola at 11:21 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Orme, you just made me go "awwwww" about a spider.

not that I don't anyway sometimes
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:32 PM on December 19, 2012


Orme, you just made me go "awwwww" about a spider.

Well, you should know that the spider eventually dumps his friend for "hogging all of the good web" and "criticizing" him behind his back.
posted by orme at 7:41 AM on December 20, 2012


It's awesome that we're still finding new species, but why do they have to always be spiders? --especially giant nightmare-inducing species like the link from neverusedbabyshoes? Ugh.
posted by cass at 7:48 AM on December 20, 2012


Well, you should know that the spider eventually dumps his friend for "hogging all of the good web" and "criticizing" him behind his back.

So here's a little story for ya: I have severe sleep apnea, so I have to wear a full-faced CPAP mask at night so I can breathe. One night, I had a visitor. Managed to bite me on the nose before the air pressure forced it down my throat. Next morning, I noticed a small black dot on my nose. I rubbed the spot, and the bridge of my nose pretty much caved in. I had necrosis. A big, black hole. My doctor sent me to a surgeon, who confirmed that yes, I had necrosis from a venomous spider bite. It took about six weeks before I could go out in public without bandages, but I did heal without surgery. Now, I just have an attractive divot on the bridge of my nose. Barely noticeable. Adds character.

All of this is by way of saying that I am, nevertheless, not afraid of spiders, even though I probably have reason to be. Unless...

I do not want to live in a world with neurotic spiders. That would just be too much fucking drama.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:07 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sensing a great opportunity to finally bring to market a combination sleep apnea mask and bug zapper: The ZAPnea 3000.
posted by orme at 11:16 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, Florence. What state do you live in, so I can NEVER EVER GO THERE?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:32 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Washington State. We actually have a pretty low volume of venomous critters here, so I wouldn't worry about it. Serial killers and psychopaths, on the other hand, we have in abundance.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:38 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh. Well, that's okay, then.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:09 PM on December 21, 2012


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