Animal enthusiasts like to adopt all kinds of pets, including arachnids. Some pet parents are seen fawning over their spiders the same way someone else might over a dog or cat. But, keeping a pet as tiny and exotic as a spider can be a bit intimidating sometimes.
It always helps to try and see things from your pet’s perspective, whether they are something as big as a horse or as small as a spider. But while you’re researching to better your pet’s life, you may come up with a few questions. Like…
Do spiders have noses? Spiders do not have noses. At least, they don’t have the specific body part that functions as a nose on humans. Their face consists mainly of eyes and a mouth. However, they do have a very highly-tuned sense of smell which they can achieve through a complex network of hairs on their legs.
Spiders are Nature’s oddballs. But, there’s no denying that when you take a deeper look into the intricacies of a spider’s anatomy, you’ll see them as the wonders they are.
So, without further ado, let’s delve into the subject of spiders and how these unique creatures manage to survive without a properly functioning body part assigned for breathing and smelling.
The Anatomy Of A Spider
Spiders have evolved in numerous ways to adapt to their habitats, their ability to catch prey, and their ability to survive. Unlike other insects, spiders have only two main body parts – the fused head and prosoma, also known as the cephalothorax, and the abdomen, called the opisthosoma.
These are joined by a short, narrow stalk called the pedicel. The eyes and the jaws, which are called chelicerae, are on the prosoma. The jaws are well-equipped with fangs and usually venom glands as well.
A fun fact about spiders is that almost all spiders carry venom. However, the venom of most spiders does not have an impact on humans. Instead, a spider’s venom is essentially used to stun or kill its prey.
Also, another fun fact about spiders is that most spiders have eight eyes. However, some have as many as eight eyes, whereas other spiders have no eyes like the sinopoda scurion.
Lastly, if the spider is able to make webs, their silk-releasing organs, called spinnerets, are at the far end of the abdomen. And, contrary to popular belief, most spiders don’t make webs at all!
So, you might now wonder which part of the body the spider uses to smell and breathe. Well, a spider breathes and smells in a manner significantly different from humans and other animals.
How Does A Spider Breathe?
On the underside of a spider’s abdomen, two hardened plates are covering the book lungs. The book lungs are a form of respiratory organ found in most spiders. Book lungs are a series of thin plates that are highly vascular, meaning they are full of hemolymph, a spider’s equivalent to blood.
Now, the thin plates of the book lungs resemble the thin pages of a book. Hence the name, ‘book lungs.’ These plates are open to air as they are close to small gill-like slits found under the abdomen. Some spider species have these plates on their legs. However, they too function in the same way and enable spiders to breathe.
The book lungs expand and contract in the same way as our lungs do. Moreover, the slits in the abdomen make room for air to enter the book lungs of spiders directly. But, they also allow the used air to leave the body. Therefore, a nose is rendered pointless, at least for spiders.
How Does A Spider Smell?
Now that you have discovered the incredible way that spiders breathe, you will be equally amazed by how these creatures can smell. Actually, just about everything that spiders do – from weaving webs to the way they can pick up vibrations of prey – is nothing short of amazing.
Yes, spiders can smell, but they can pick up scent through the infinitesimally sensitive hairs that cover their legs. Their olfactory sense is so defined that spiders can tell from the smell whether the animal approaching is prey, predator, or mate.
Whenever the tiny hairs on a spider’s legs are triggered, the spider’s brain receives signals that help the arachnid determine the source of the scent.
Some spider species can smell through the tiny two legs that are close to their mouth. These are called pedipalps. Most spiders use these rather useful legs as a forklift to raise the prey to their mouth for feeding and as clamps to tightly hold the target while injecting venom into the prey’s body.
The tiny hairs on a spider’s legs are believed to help them tell the difference in flavors too. And yes, spiders have a sense of taste as well!
Furthermore, the hairs on the legs have even smaller hairs growing on top of the fuzz that covers a spider’s legs. These smaller hairs can pick up on vibrations. So, that is the reason you won’t find a pair of ears on your pet spider either.
The spider’s sensitivity to vibrations through these tiny hairs that grow on its legs is astounding. Spiders can even tell what kind of prey is stuck in their web through the movements the prey makes.
While the scent of prey or a mate is always welcome, many scents will send your eight-legged friends scurrying in the opposite direction. It’s a good idea for pet parents of spiders to know of such valuable information in case you find your pet scared out of its mind, trying to run and find a safe refuge.
What Scents Repel Spiders?
No, it’s not a joke when you read that certain smells work to make spiders run away in disgust. Sharp aromas from things like vinegar, citrus fruits, and peppermint repel spiders.
In no way are these things toxic or harmful for spiders. Recent scientific studies even show that even most insect repellents don’t work on spiders. So, while your spider will not be offended by the smell of a pesticide, it’s not going to stay around spaces that have a tangy or acidic smell.
But, the point to keep in mind is that spiders aren’t affected by bad scents in general. Your house could smell of a Durian, the world’s smelliest fruit, and your spider is not going to give a hoot. But, if your spider comes into contact with a surface that has a scent that repels it, then they’ll be running for the hills.
Who hasn’t heard of Spiderman? But, spiders themselves are far more impressive when it comes to unique abilities. Your pet spider can taste, hear, and smell all through the hairs that cover its legs.
The part that leaves scientists astounded is that not only are the hairs able to help spiders tell between vibrations and flavors, friend or foe, but they’ll also use vibrations to distinguish between different scents in a matter of a few nanoseconds. For these reasons and more, many animal lovers are intrigued by the idea of adopting a spider.
Spiders may not be much to look at; most aren’t even dangerous, but they take a smack of the newspaper anyways as many people find them scary to look at. Another fun fact is that out of 45,000 spider species, there are only 25 kinds of spiders that have venom that can affect humans.
However, if you take a second to look a little deeper at spiders, you will realize that spiders are truly a marvel of Nature. The hairs on a spider’s body may be one of the reasons that spiders appear creepy to some individuals. But, with hairs that have such superpowers, even Spiderman wouldn’t say no to a bit of body hair.
But, if you decide to adopt a spider, you must remember that they will need your attention and love as much as any other pet. Although spiders are low-maintenance pets, they do thrive under love even in captivity.
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