• Submitted By: viopurp
  • Date Submitted: 03/14/2009 8:39 AM
  • Category: Science
  • Words: 563
  • Page: 3
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Spiders are air-breathing chelicerate arthropods that have eight legs, and chelicerae modified into fangs that inject venom. In their bodies the usual arthropod segments are fused into two tagmata, the cephalothorax and abdomen, joined by a small, cylindrical pedicel. In all except the most primitive group, the Mesothelae, spiders have the most centralized nervous systems of all arthropods, as all their ganglia are fused into one mass in the cephalothorax. Unlike most arthropods, spiders have no extensor muscles in their limbs and instead extend them by hydraulic pressure.

Their abdomens bear appendages that have been modified into spinnerets that extrude silk from up to six types of silk gland within their abdomens. Spider's webs vary widely in size, shape and the amount of sticky thread used. It now appears that the spiral orb web may be one of the earliest forms, and spiders that produce tangled cobwebs are more abundant and diverse than orb-web spiders. Spider-like arachnids with silk-producing spigots appear in the Devonian period about 386 million years ago, but these animals apparently lacked spinnerets. True spiders have been found in Carboniferous rocks from 318 to 299 million years ago, and are very similar to the most primitive surviving order, the Mesothelae. The main groups of modern spiders, Mygalomorphae and Araneomorphae, first appear in the Triassic period, before 200 million years ago.

A vegetarian species was described in 2007, but all other known species are predators, mostly preying on insects and on other spiders, although a few large species also take birds and lizards. Spiders use a wide range of strategies to capture prey: trapping it in sticky webs, lassoing it with sticky bolas, mimicking the prey to avoid detection, or running it down. Most detect prey mainly by sensing vibrations, but the active hunters have acute vision, and hunters of the genus Portia show signs of intelligence in their choice of tactics and ability to develop...

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