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The Life Cycle of a Spider

Any organism in this world would have to undergo a particular life cycle until they reach their final form upon conception or as adults. This is just a natural way or process of development, fostering the needs of an organism in a given specific period of time. The natural order of development also implies a systematic approach to the needs of a creature. In other words, the process entails appropriation depending on the amount of the creature's development. Say for example, in humans, toddlers aren't able to produce reproductive cells for copulation and procreation because they don't need it yet. The only time they undergo full development of their reproductive system such that they will be already capable of reproduction is only when they have reached the adult stage. The same thing goes as well with most of the other creatures on earth and the appropriate development applies in all aspects of growth as well.

Spiders, as organisms undergo the same thing as well. Only that they have a different process to it. A spider's life cycle will comprise of four major stages: The egg stage, the time of the spider's conception on earth, larva stage, comparable to a toddler stage, the young spider, also known as a nymph or spiderling and the adult stage. Spider may be arachnids and not insects, they still undergo through a process called molting, wherein the organism sheds exoskeletons from time to time during growth. There are stages of molting, and in each and every stage, the spider undergoes certain developments and when they become spiderlings, they will look more like of miniature versions of the adult spider. This process is also called incomplete metamorphosis.

The Flow of Spider Conception and Growth

The Courtship and Mating Stage

Surprisingly, these little bugs know a thing or two about impressing ladies. Spiders do have to undergo a common process that we humans are very well aware of also as we do it ourselves, called courtship. As a spider's reproductive system matures upon its last molt, at such time the female spiders will have already developed fully functional ovaries and mature testes for male spiders, males will have begun searching for females for mating. While there are a very species of spiders that don't undergo through courtship, most of them however will have to go through the painstaking process of impressing their partners. The funny thing about their courtship stage is that it doesn't only serve as a mean of persuading the female spider to mate but also to dissuade it from eating him. To female spiders, everything that moves may be a prey up for grabs. If the male spiders don't execute a seemingly ritualistic dance, females may never be able to identify them as mating partners and would most likely devour them.

There are different ways of executing spider courtship depending on what species of spiders are involved. For example, the American tarantulas, involves an identification process in which a male would repeatedly touch the female's body. Often, the male would even communicate with the female already from a distance by using vibrations as signals. A wolf spider would use its legs to drum and send vibration signals through the ground. There are also certain species of spiders that send signal threads to the female spider's web. The male would then pluck the thread on a very specific rhythm to their species which would identify him as a creature of the same species and not some ensnared insect for dinner. If the female has already identified the male's signals and will become ready for mating, she will then send signals back.

Finding the right partner may prove to be a difficult task to some species of spiders. That's why there are often times when they get eaten because they wound up courting spiders of another species. Since spiders from different species wouldn't be able to identify them, they would most likely consider them as preys. Luckily, there are certain species of spiders the produce a substance called pheromones which helps the courtship process. A female spider of that species will release the pheromones to the air and through her silk threads. When a male detects the pheromones, he will immediately get excited even without the actual presence of the female spider.

Spiders with better eyesight would mostly rely on visual signals in order to identify their mates. Often, identification would entail performing specific dance rituals that would identify the males as mates and not prey. Each dance ritual is unique to a particular species of spider.

When the courtship process is successful, the male would then insert his sperm-loaded palp to the female spider's genital opening. Copulation among spiders could range from a few seconds to hours, depending on what species are involved.

Eggs and Brood Care

In most species of spiders, the female are able to determine when the fertilization process would take place. Normally, it would take weeks after mating for the eggs to become fertilized with the sperm deposited by the male spiders upon mating. This process helps the female decides whether the surrounding condition is already the best time for the conception to take place. Most spider species would lay hundreds of eggs at a time and some other larger species would even lay thousands in just a few minutes.

Spiders would often envelop their laid eggs in a silk sac cocoon for protection against possible predators. It also serves as insulation from the possible harsh changes in the environment. Some spiders would leave their eggs right away after laying them, while others would remain on guard until they hatch.

Brood care is often manifested in certain species of spiders, like the female wolf spiders. They attach their cocoon to their spinnerets and will carry them around anywhere they go until such time hatch. When the eggs hatch, the spiderlings will then climb at their mother's back and would stay there for weeks until they are able to survive on themselves.

Growth and Development

Spider eggs would normally hatch inside the cocoon. When they hatch, they will take form of a white larva. They will remain that way for two to three weeks until it morphs into the stage of incomplete metamorphosis wherein they become small versions of the adult spiders.

Through a series of several molting the small spiderlings would eventually grow in size, given the proper nourishment and growth in time. Most of the "true" spiders would live only as long as 1-2 years. Tarantulas however, are an exception to that regular lifespan, as they can grow as long 20-25 years, particularly the female of the species. The male tarantulas live a relatively shorter life.
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