Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

RICHARD FREEMAN: The web of fear

Guest Blogger time for Richard Freeman again. It almost seems silly introducing Richard to you all once again when he makes an appearance as guest blogger several times a week. However, our viewing audience/ readers (whatever you like to call yourselves) is growing so fast that it is certain that some of you missed the last time I introduced him.

Recently a large orb weaver spider in Atherton, North Queensland captured a full-grown finch in its web, as these spectacular pictures show. Just a week later Townsville residents Tom and Judy Phillips took photos of a giant golden orb weaver spider eating a double-barred finch in their backyard. The finch was just over four inches long.

This got me to wondering what was the largest animal ever to be caught in a spider’s web? The tensile polymer is, after all, stronger than steel and kevlar.

In 2004 a 12-inch snake of unknown species was captured in the web of a Chinese house spider in Qingyuan county in the eastern Zhejiang province. After an 80 minute struggle, the spider managed to bite the snake in the neck and kill it. Though this was only a tiny snake the odds were still very much against the spider.
The same year Tania Robertson, a receptionist from Bloemfontein in South Africa, saw and photographed a brown button spider capturing, killing and partially eating an Aurora snake just under 6 inches long (see photograph).

      The spider had been nesting in the air-conditioning unit in her office.
        Both creatures are now in the National Museum.
              Once again the snake is a youngster but still much bigger and stronger than the spider.

                                  • In 2006 Lisa Parsonage from England snapped a picture of a red back spider killing a snake in a bush toilet at Henbury Meteorite Craters in the Northern Territory.
                                  • Again the snake is a small one. It seems to be that the snake gets its head tangled in webbing, giving the spider a chance to bite it then retreat to a safe distance.

                                  On youtube there are a number of films of spiders subduing vertebrate prey. These include several films of a live mouse been fed to a tarantula who swiftly subdues it without the aid of a web, as well as one eating a small lizard. All of these were filmed in captivity.

                                  A big factor is who gets the drop on whom. Giant centipedes often kill large spiders but here the centipede is killed by a tiny snake. http://www.youtube.com/watchv=FZFMhjTvWBI&feature=fvw

                                  Small bats also fall foul of spider’s webs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRQaCvCZeTo

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