Worse than Speedos

Enoplognatha ovata full
So, I was testing out a new flash attachment (not quite what I was after, but still functional) when I came across this little guy, quickly identified as an Enoplognatha ovata, but you probably said that the moment you saw it. You likely also know it’s a male, because that detail is kind of hard to miss, seeing as how it’s displayed in those boxing gloves right out front: the pedipalps. While the females have small and dainty ones like expensive spiked heels, the males have these swollen, grotesque blobs appearing able to smite the arachnid equivalent of a troll.

Enoplognatha ovata face with pedipalpsMy specimen is small, as the male spiders often are, this one measuring 8mm in body length at best (I forgot to confirm when I could.) I went in for a face shot because, hey, anyone can do an overhead full-body pic, plus I was, as I said, testing out the lighting. After I unloaded the memory card, I noticed (besides the eye reflections) that the chelicerae appeared somewhat distinctive, and since I had not yet identified the species, I decided I’d like a closer look. He was still sitting where I’d taken these shots and left him, which was on a graduated container sitting on the porch (containing other arthropods, if you must know, ones not half as interesting as this one,) so it was an easy matter to capture him and go for slightly more controllable conditions.

Slightly. Once removed from his ‘safe’ position, his cooperative torpor vanished, and he spent most of his time perambulating around a leaf, primarily trying to remain both on the underside and facing away. I mentioned before about the soldering rig that I use to hold leaves and such for ‘studio’ arthropod sessions, and I’ll add a little tip: find something as articulated as possible if you’re going to pursue this, because the ability to shift your subject around to present the most useful angle is extremely helpful, and such subjects are rarely cooperative enough to get into position with a few slight nudges. This one did not appear to like either the light I was using as focusing assistance, or the looming camera, and repeatedly turned to face away.

Enoplognatha ovata pedipalps detail
But even as I got the angle I was after, mostly what I captured were those pedipalps, and I cannot help but believe this was intentional (on the spider’s part. Sheesh. Pervs.) Now, this is where I correct some information I posted previously. Originally, I said that the pedipalps collected sperm from the testes opening situated under the abdomen, and were used to ‘manually’ (‘palpably?’) insert this sperm into the female. Then, I read somewhere that the sperm were actually produced within the pedipalps – this was were the gonads resided. But on researching images that might illustrate this better (my search history will one day creep out the investigators,) I have gone back to the original statement: the sperm is produced within the abdomen, collected in the pedipalps, and retained there until needed. So we’re not exactly seeing the spider’s manhood arachnohood here, but close enough for blog purposes. We don’t ever see ours either, just the cheap purse that contains them. Which really should have a couple of armor plates included…

Enoplognatha ovata pedipalps detail
And true to my own nature, I provide far more detail than you ever really desired – probably something about my upbringing that should demand therapy. But seriously, how could I not share these images? Those are some impressive stones, and he probably knows it – spiders don’t have any necks to hang gold chains around, so this is how it translates. Now I wish I had sworls. Perhaps I could get a tatt— no.

Enoplognatha ovata chelicera fangs detail
Out of a large number of frames, most of which will be discarded (another tip: never trust focus or lighting, and take lots of variations, the biggest benefit of digital,) I did eventually get what I was after, which wasn’t half as interesting – those are the fangs sitting just behind the pedipalps. You can also see the stump of the missing leg, and one more detail, visible in some of the other images too. That dark spot at the base of the abdomen is where the lungs reside, and just aft of that is the external opening for the genitals – this is the closest we’re going to get to actually seeing the real things, short of dissection. I’m sorry to disappoint you.

Just to show I’m not totally lacking in normal taste…
lion cubs facing off
… I’ll throw in an image of lion cubs preparing to wrestle – probably insufficient to offset the rest, but at least I’m trying. This was from several years ago (pre-blog, ancient history) at the zoo, the cubs’ first day out – they were having a blast. Maybe I need to do a post on them…