The amazing spines of the spineless

Isn’t language great? One word can mean several things. It’s hell on those trying to learn another language, though.

‘Spine’ can mean ‘a series of vertebrae extending from the skull to the small of the back, enclosing the spinal cord and providing support for the thorax and abdomen; the backbone‘ and ‘any hard, pointed defensive projection or structure, such as a prickle of a hedgehog, a spike-like projection on a sea urchin, a sharp ray in a fish’s fin, or a spike on the stem of a plant‘ (Oxford Dictionary), among other things.

Then we have ‘invertebrate’, a construction from Latin meaning ‘without vertebrae’, essentially no spinal cord, hence ‘spineless’.

Many invertebrates have spines – think of any sea urchin, for instance. Another example of a spiny spineless wonder presented itself on the front porch recently.

This huntsman , one of 96 species in Australia, shed its skin in order to grow, as does any animal with an exoskeleton. It’s not often you get to see the amazing spines on the legs, especially if you have just noticed a live one and it has noticed you, and in that moment neither of you appreciates the other nor wants to get closer.

Huntsman, top view

Huntsman, top view

The resultant cast is just the old outer skin, and the spider has grown and its new exoskeleton hardened.

Huntsman_2Note the large mouthparts (below). Huntsmen are not dangerous to people as such, but can apparently give a painful bite.

Huntsman, under view

Huntsman, under view

Call me morbid, but I’m hoping more casts or corpses come my way so I can get a really good look at things I normally don’t want to get too close to.

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2 Responses to The amazing spines of the spineless

  1. janebeau says:

    aaaaargh (me on spotting the huntsman). I sat on a sea urchin once in Mozambique – very painful process having the spines removed :() xx j

    • Joy Window says:

      Sorry about that – I should have given a warning for arachnophobes 🙂 I have a pair of red-back spider (black widow) earrings that are so realistic I have had to stop wearing them. People tend to freak out if they notice them. And ouch! It must have been really unpleasant being ‘de-spined’.

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