Guru spiders look scary, but they can be fearful cats


Guru spiders are the size of your palm. They weave webs up to three feet long, and over the past decade, East Asian spiders have been spreading throughout the southeastern United States.

“If you’re arachnophobic, they’re the stuff of your nightmares,” said Andy Davis, a University of Georgia biologist who studies these nightmares.

But Dr Davis said gors are “gentle giants” who are prone to shyness and tend to freeze more than fight. Results of his latest experiments published this week in the journal arthropods, showed that spiders remain stationary for more than an hour when blown with air from a turkey sink. By comparison, the smaller spiders seemed relatively unperturbed, suggesting that even large, fearful spiders can be fearful cats.

Joros were first seen in northeastern Georgia in 2013; Dr. Davis’s best guess is that the spiders’ eggs arrived in shipping containers, because they tended to pop up around highways. He first discovered the Guru spider while he was walking with his wife around his university campus; He recalls stopping to take a picture because “it was so amazing”. He has been studying spiders ever since.

Joros have been the subject of media attention with their popularity; Dr. Davis thinks they’ll be in New York this summer. But unlike another invasive bug, the tree-destroying spotted lanternfly has it Death Note in the Big Apple, there is no evidence as to whether joros is affecting the North American continent for better or for worse. (At the very least, its venom is too weak to harm humans.)

Even though there is no data on their behavior, gurus get a bad rap, said Dr. Davis, because some people equate the spread of spiders in the South with daring.

“People believe that guru is superior to domestic spiders,” he said. He added that the aim of the study was to assess “how aggressive are these joros?”

Dr. Davis and Amish Anirau, who recently completed undergraduate studies in Georgia, set out to examine the spiders’ boldness with a tried-and-true lab test: blowing the spiders with air from a turkey bat, then measuring how long it took for them to resume moving. The experiment is based on the idea that trapped spiders may freeze in a last-ditch effort to avoid being kidnapped by a hungry bird. The puffs of air try to simulate the beating of a bird’s wings.

When the researchers blew air on baby garden spiders and orb weavers and subtracted data from previous research on five other species, they found that it took an average of a minute and a half for the baby spiders to resume moving.

Guru was another story.

“At first, I tried to do it in the lab, but I mean, some of the gaurus would only freeze for more than two hours at a time. At that point, the building was closing, and I had to leave,” Mr. Anirau said. So he took the spiders home to his apartment. , as he can let the spiders take their time.

Jars in the study averaged over an hour of stillness after insufflation. The same is true of the golden weavers, a cousin of the guru and native to the Americas. Researchers say this behavior points to their genus, Trichonephila, as being among the shyest spiders ever documented.

Angela Chuang, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida who was not involved in the study, points out that aggression, in terms of fighting with other creatures, is different from being daring or not being shy.

They urge caution in extrapolating the general behavior of spiders in the wild from their reactions in this study.

“I would be very careful about just calling them shy spiders — like, yeah, in what context?” Dr. Chuang said. “Apparently, it’s shy in the context of blowing air, which tells us nothing about their actual interactions with any other species.”

Dr. Davis and Dr. Chuang agree that more experiments and observations are needed to understand how the guru will interact with their new home. The results of another set of unpublished trials provide an initial hint. Dr. Davis said that Mr. Anirau put the guru spiders in an enclosure with native spiders and “had them go out to see who would win, and the guru always loses.” “They were always the first to flee.”

If you spot a guru, rather than run away or squash it, Dr. Chuang suggested taking a photo and uploading it to a website like iNaturalist to help researchers track spiders.

“Public awareness of our research has helped a lot,” they said.


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