Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER XI

ARTHROPODS (Continued). CLASS ARACHNIDA

134. General characters. In this group, comprising the spiders, mites, and a large assemblage of related species, we again meet with great differences in form and structure which fit them for lives under widely different conditions. The three regions of the body, head, thorax, and abdomen, 80 clearly marked in the insects, are here less, plainly defined. The head and thorax are usually closely united, and in the mites the boundaries of the abdomen are also indistinct. The appendages of the head are two in number, and probably correspond to the antennæ and mandibles of other Arthropods. In the scorpions and some species of mites these are furnished with pincers for holding the prey, and in other forms they act as piercing organs. Usually the thorax bears four pairs of legs, a characteristic which readily separates such animals from the insects.

The internal organization differs almost as much as does the external. In many species it shows a considerable resemblance to that of some insects, but in others, especially those of parasitic habits, it departs widely from such a type. Respiration is affected by means of tracheæ, or lung-books, which consist of sacs containing many blood-filled, leaf-like plates placed together like the leaves of a book.

Usually, as in the insects, the young hatch from eggs which are laid, but in the scorpions and some of the mites the young develop within the body and at birth resemble the parent. Almost all of these organisms live either as

[ocr errors]

parasites or as active predaceous animals upon other animals. For this purpose many are provided with keen senses for detecting their prey and poisonous spines for despatching it.

135. The scorpions.—Owing to the stout investing armor, the strong pincers, and the general form of the body, the scorpions might at first sight be mistaken for near relatives

of the crayfish or lobster. A more careful examination will show that the two pairs of pincers probably correspond to the antennæ and mandibles of the Crustacea that have become modified for seizing the food. The swollen part of the animal lying behind the four pairs of legs is a part of the abdomen, of which the slender “ tail” constitutes the remainder. On the tip of the tail is a curved spine supplied with poison glands. Sev

eral pairs of eyes are borne Fig. 85.-Scorpion, showing pincer-like mouth

on the dorsal surface of parts and spine-tipped tail.

the head and thorax, while on the under side of the animal several slit-like openings lead into as many small cavities containing the lung-books.

The scorpions are the inhabitants of warm countries, where they may be found under sticks and stones throughout the day. At night they leave their homes in search of food, which consists chiefly of insects and spiders. These are seized by means of the pincers, and the sting is driven into them with speedily fatal results. It is doubtful if the poison causes death in man, but the sting of some of the

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

larger species, which measure five or six inches in length, may produce certain disorders chiefly affecting the circulation. In this country there are upward of thirty species, most of which are comparatively small.

136. The harvestmen.—The harvestmen or daddy-longlegs are small-bodied, long-legged creatures which resemble in general appearance several of the spiders. They differ from them, however, in the possession of claws corresponding to the smaller ones of the scorpion, and in their method of respiration, which is similar to that of insects. During the day they conceal themselves in dark crevices or stride slowly about in shaded places; but at night they emerge into more open districts and capture small insects, from which they suck the juices.

137. The spiders.—The spiders are world-wide in their distribution, and are a highly interesting group, owing chiefly to their peculiar habits. Examining any of our familiar species, it will be seen that the united head and thorax are separated by a narrow stalk from the usually distended abdomen. To the under side of the former are attached four pairs of long legs, a pair of feelers, and the powerful jaws supplied with poison-sacs, while eight shining eyes are borne on the top of the head. On the abdomen, behind the last pair of legs, are small openings into the lung cavities which contain a number of vascular, leaflike projections known as lung-books. In some species a well-marked system of tracheæ are also present. At the hinder end of the body are four or six little projections, the spinnerets, each of which is perforated with many holes. Through these the secretion from the glands beneath is squeezed out in the form of excessively delicate threads, often several hundred in number, which harden on exposure to the air. According to the use for which these are intended, they may remain a tangled mass or become united into one firm thread; and according to the habits of the animal, they may be used for enclosing their eggs, for lining their burrows, or for the construction of webs of the most diverse patterns.

138. The habits of spiders.—Many species of spiders, some of which are familiar objects in fields and houses, construct sheets of cobweb with a tube at one side in which they may

[graphic]

Fig. 86.-A tarantula-spider (Eurypelma lentzii). Natural size. Photograph by

A. L. MELANDER and C. T. BRUES.

lie in wait for their prey or through which they may escape in times of danger. In the webs of the common orb- or wheel-weavers several radial lines are first constructed, and upon these the female spider spins a spiral web. Resting in the center of this or at the margin, with her foot on some of the radial threads, she is able to detect the slightest tremor and at once to rush upon the entangled captive.·

Some of the bird-spiders and their allies, living in tropical America, and attaining a length of two inches, construct web-lined burrows in the ground. From these they stalk their prey, which consists of various insects and even

small birds. These are almost instantly killed by the poisonfangs, and are then carried to the burrow, where the juices of the body are extracted.

The trap-door spiders of the southwestern section of the United States also dig tunnels, which they cover with a closely fitting lid composed of earth. Raising this they come out in search of insects, but if sought in turn, they dash into the burrow, closing the door after them, and holding it with such firmness that it is rarely forced open. If this should happen, there are sometimes blind passage-ways, also closed with trap-doors, which usually baffle the pursuer.

Fig. 87.–Trap-door spider and burrow
Finally, there are

(Cteniza). among the thousand species of spiders in the United States a considerable proportion which construct no definite web. Many of these may be seen darting about in the sunshine on old logs and fences, often trailing after them a thread which may support them if they fall in their active leaping after insects.

139. Breeding habits.—The male spiders are usually much smaller than the females, and some species are only onefifteenth as long as the female and one one-hundredth of its weight. They are usually more brilliantly colored, more active in their movements, yet rarely spinning their own webs and capturing their own food, preferring to live at the expense of the female. At the breeding season the males of several species make a most interesting display

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »