This is an article written by Ella Davies and appeared on BBC’s Earth News website on 8 February 2011. The article details how a Madagascan spider that stays in snail shells hoists the shell above the ground. The spider, Olios coenobitus, was first observed in 1926 but very few studies have been carried on it.
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However, new video footage shot in Madagascar reveal how the spider suspends snail shells from which it hides from predators. The spider lives predominantly in the thorny shrubs south of Madagascar. Earlier studies were conducted using captured spiders and it was observed that they raised snail shells more than 50cm above the ground although it was observed that in their natural habitats, the height was more.
This prompted a BBC film crew and biologists to travel to the southern African country to study how the spider achieves this enormous task. The mission had its challenges as O. coenobitus is nocturnal and is extremely sensitive to light. Therefore, the team opted for an alternative method: they used infrared lights and cameras to film the spider as it hoisted a snail shell.
The video shows the spider spinning silk and making a winch to aid in hoisting the snail shell above the ground, a process that takes almost 30 minutes. Using the repetitive process of attaching one end of each strand to the branch and the other end to the shell, Olios coenobitus is able to hoist a snail shell that is more than 20 times its own weight. This shell helps the spider escape predators and harsh weather.
As mentioned above, the spider under study is known by the scientific name Olios coenobitus, the insect has been identified correctly since studies have been conducted on the spider since its discovery in 1926 (Living National Treasures).
The BBC crews presents a clear picture of the animals and even have a video clip as evidence of their research. They utilized technological advancements to capture a video of the spider in its natural habitat. Their findings are corroborated by those of Bigot Laursen that were collected while studying the Olios coenobitus under captivity in 1969 (Laursen).
Davies does not offer information on the biology of the spider since the experiment was primarily involved with how snail shell is hoisted by such a small creature. However, the article enables us to know the physical and geographical conditions of the habitat where the mysterious spider lives, we also learn that the Olios coenobitus is nocturnal and is extremely sensitive to light.
The team gives an unbiased report of their mission in Madagascar and do not attempt to make the spider look dangerous, instead focusing on its remarkable ability to hoist an object more than 20 times it weight nearly 50 cm above the ground.
Davies summarizes the article by drawing our attention to the huge significance of the snail shell in the life of the spider: it shields it from the hot desert climate and ants, common predators in this ecosystem. He alludes to the fact due to limited research on the life of the Olios coenobitus, the team could be the first to reveal the spider’s remarkable technique in full. The conclusion is therefore valid and is drawn from a scientific point of view, especially the role of the shell to the spider’s survival in its habitat.
Davies, Ella. Madagascar’s elusive shell-squatting spider filmed. BBC Earth News. 2011. Web.
Laursen, Bigot. On Behavior in Captivity of the spider Olios coenobita Fage. CR Acad Sci Hebd Seances Acad Sci D. Vol. 268, No. 4, 1969: 729-30.
Living National Treasures. Madagascar. Web.