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The prince, the tarantula and the textile

Posted by Yvonne on Sep 25, 2009 11:23:40 AM

prince-tarantuala_close up.jpg

Image caption: Prince William holds Sarah the tarantula


Did you see Prince William and the tarantula images in the press last week? Looking slightly wary or pretty relaxed depending on which millisecond of action the camera caught! He was holding the tarantula at the opening of the Museum's new Darwin Centre last Monday.


The tarantula in the photos is called Sarah and is the pet of a member of staff. She was brought in for the The Secrets of Spider Dating talk, part of the Museum's free daily Nature Live events.


Museum spider expert Jan Beccaloni gave the talk and shared her wisdom of spiders telling fascinating facts such as how there are 40,000 or more species of spider in the world and how the jumping spiders have the best eyesight.


And, if that isn't fascinating enough, the American Museum of Natural History has just put on display a textile made from spider silk. It took 80 people, using more than 1 million spiders, 4 years to make.


They collected female golden orb spiders daily from telephone wires from the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, during the rainy season (the only time the spiders produce silk).


The process needed people to draw the silk from each spider using hand-powered machines. Each spider produces more than 24m of silk filament. The spiders are released afterwards unharmed.


So, if you are lucky enough to be in New York, make your way to the Museum and have a look at the rare specimen. Not in America? Get a copy of Jan Beccaloni's new book Arachnids.

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This Nature News Blog will bring you snippets of news about the work of Museum scientists and other science and nature news.

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