We visited William Biggers, professor of biology, in his lab, where he introduced us to two of his favorite laboratory specimens.
FUN FACTS: TARANTULAS
- The tarantula’s reputation is based more on legend than reality as there are only a few species which have a powerful bite. The venom of most is not highly toxic to humans. Tarantulas are actually placid and harmless and will only attack if goaded and, in many cases, the bite is no more harmful to humans than a bee sting.
- The tarantula does not spin a web, but bites its prey with long, curved fangs, injecting it with a poison which slowly renders the victim helpless. It will then crush its food between its powerful jaws, at the same time injecting a fluid which breaks down the victim’s tissues. This turns the prey into a soft pulp, which can then be eaten.
FUN FACTS: HISSING COCKROACHES
- Like 99 percent of all cockroach species, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are not pests and do not inhabit human dwellings.
- Males use their horns in aggressive encounters reminiscent of battles between horned or antlered mammals. Rivals ram one another with their horns (or abdomens) and during the fight often unleash the amazing hisses that give the animal its name. Winning roaches hiss more than losers, so the sounds may be used to help determine a roach hierarchy.