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It’s a fact that Spiders strike fear into a great majority of humans, which is at odds with the limited dangers that spiders pose. Most of them won’t bite unless threatened, although certain species of spiders will do more damage than, say, the American house spider. Beyond the usual talk identifying harmful spiders, here are some strange but true factoids:
1. Cure for arachnophobia: Scientists at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil stumbled upon an odd cure for fear of spiders. They have their patients stare at photos of “spiderlike” things like dreadlocks and a tripod. This method is real, and the researchers reported a a 92% success rate in a peer-reviewed journal.
2. Cure for erectile dysfunction: The venom of the Brazilian wandering spider contains a toxin that causes long-lasting erections in human victims. Scientists are working to harness the responsible substance as a cure for what ails some men.
3. Suicidal spiders: Red widow spiders are a strange bunch. Like the black widow, the female red widow will cannibalize her mate. The weird thing about this breed is how the male volunteers to be eaten by climbing into the lady spider’s mandibles. He persists until she gives up and eats him. True romance!
4. Spider decoys: Some spiders breeds are smart enough to create their own decoys (weaved into their webs) to fool predators. They will even go so far as to shake the web to make the decoys move in a realistic manner.
5. Massive brains: In comparison to the rest of a spider’s body, their brain are oversized. The smaller the spider, the more disproportionally large its brain happens to be. Some spiders’ brains are so big they overflow into their legs.
6. Safe spider sex: Some male spiders are smarter than others and will bring an offering (a silk-wrapped insect) to a mating. Nursery web spiders developed this trick long ago, and it appears to keep them alive for the next mating.
7. Hair-flinging spiders: Certain breeds of tarantula will defend themselves by flinging irritating hairs at predators. This is much like the porcupine defense of quill flinging.
8. Super webs: Spider webs, for their size and weight are as comparatively strong as steel from a human point of view.
9. Ghost Trees: In 2011, spiders took over an entire village’s trees in Pakistan. It happened overnight when flooding took place and millions of spiders took makeshift refuge. Their webbing gave the trees a cocoon-like, ghostly appearance.
10. Tarantella dance: The dance popularized in The Godfather was invented in Italy during the 16th and 17th centuries. Legend held that a person could be fatally bitten by a tarantula unless they performed this crazy dance.
11. Better vision than humans: Those scary jumping spiders in your garage can see what you can’t see. Some of them can even see both UVA and UVB light. The better to attack you with?
12. Spider thieves: Lazy, freeloading spiders do exist, and they’re called cobweb spiders. They’ll step into another spider’s web and pillage their spoils, i.e., their already captured food. These specimens aren’t common, but they’re also brutal murderers and won’t hesitate to kill the host spider too.
13. Teamwork: Spiders are usually lone wolves (so to speak), but some species are very social and build communal webs. In this way, they work together to trap food in the most efficient manner. Then they share the meals.
14. Swimming spiders: The diving bell spider can survive underwater for an entire day. It weaves its own protective container from silk and stores air bubbles inside.
15. Cure for irregular heartbeats in humans: Doctors discovered that a type of South American tarantula (Grammostola spatulata) calms an irregular heartbeat. The hope is to develop a drug to treat atrial fibrillation, especially the type caused by stress.
16. Engineering tool: The glue of orbed web spiders behaves differently than most sticky substances. This spider glue actually grows stronger when it touches water, so polymer scientists are working on a way to use the substance in underwater engineering.
17. Powder problems: Spiders have trouble navigating through talcum powder or lemon-scented Pledge, so those are easy ways to keep spiders from treading on human territory. Even more effective: A sprinkle of dichotomous earth, which will cause a spider to dehydrate and die.
Strange But Not True: This still from the movie Tarantula.