Breaking news. Japanese researchers have discovered that jumping spiders have a layer of green-sensitive pigment in their eyes. What does this mean? It means that these spiders use a unique tool called image defocus to gauge the distance from themselves to objects they plan to attack (you*). They use green light to do this. The researchers, headed by a man named Takashi Nagata, discovered that in red light, the spiders misjudged the distance between themselves and their prey, falling short. I’m thrilled to learn that someone is spending time on this project. I dislike spiders immensely, and I cannot think of a better way to spend thousands of dollars. Someone needs to know how to defend the human race against these hideous creatures. Hairy, jumping spiders are gathering strength-waiting-watching.
So, if you wish to avoid jumping spiders, you must simply shroud yourself in red-light.*
I’ve been obsessed with nature news recently. Nathan’s sperm whale book-report really got to me. Last night we watched part two of the Frozen Planet series (which I would highly recommend). In it, there was a brief mention of the narwhal. I had heard of narwhals before, but for some reason they hadn’t impressed me. What?!
Narwhals are whales with a nine foot tusk sticking from their fourteen foot bodies. Unicorns of the sea. The tusk isn’t really a tusk. It’s an incisor tooth that protrudes from the upper left side of their jaw. A giant tooth. Narwhal researchers have been slightly less successful than jumping spider researchers. They still don’t really know what the tooth is for. It might be the narwhal equivalent of a letter jacket*-a demonstration of masculinity for the ladies. I can’t imagine why lady narwhals would care about a giant tooth, but they must. The tooth isn’t thought to be useful in hunting, cracking ice, or swimming. The best guess for this awkward horn used to be that it helped to establish a narwhal hierarchy.
But recently, a dentist joined the ranks. You know research is getting serious when a dentist gets involved. Apparently, the tooth has very unique properties. It contains nerves that make their way all the way to the surface. For humans, exposed nerves are incredibly uncomfortable, especially in cold. Narwhals swim in the Arctic with exposed nerves in their giant tooth, so I am left to conclude that they are much tougher than humans. The new theory is that these nerves might be sensitive enough to detect minute differences in water salinity. Sensitive enough to detect melting ice up to three miles away.
We land mammals need to step up our game. My teeth are tiny, enamel covered, sissy pearls and my nostrils are simply nostrils. Sperm whale nostrils have evolved into a blow hole and a set of phonic lips and narwhals have a massive, hyper-sensitive, incisor sticking from their foreheads – I haven’t even started examining the other 39 species of whale.
*The claims that jumping spiders want to attack you, or that you are protected from anything (at all) if shrouded in red light, are not meant to be a factual statements. Also, letter jackets are not considered (by the author) to be a sign of masculinity.