Nope, that’s not an Octokitten!
It had to happen eventually. Either we’d find them right under our noses or we’d find a way to make them, right?
It turns out we just needed a little better understanding of how diverse nature really is. In particular with respect to our less-vertebrated friends.
Cephalopods, for example, are a class, just like mammals. But we’ve had one around forever and us mammals just popped onto the scene. The various types we’ve got around today, from the nautilus to the blue-ringed octopus to the humboldt squid to the flamboyant cuttlefish create a really mind-bogglingly diverse realm of creatures that make you and a platypus seem like kissing cousins.
Nope, not an octokitten either.
Another branch of the tree of life contains a group of creatures that is arguably unfairly maligned...but contains within them a group of critters that is so unique and fascinating that they might as well be in their own category. Therein lie our OctoKittens.
They already existed: they’re just really, really adorably tiny.
Meet the OctoKitten. Otherwise known as a Jumping Spider, from the family Salticidae.
I know, despite all that build-up, some arachnophobes have their spider-senses tingling already. That’s a SPIDER, right?
And spiders are yucky, right?
And kittens are yucky, just like pigs and possums and rats, right?
This one little branch of the arachnids contains some of the most adorable (yet brutally vicious!) creatures on the planet, and most people are missing them because they’ve got the wrong number of legs. If you look a little closer, you’ll realize that these guys are just as different as your last lover is from a ferret (Please do not tell me if I was wrong about this last assumption).
What is it about them that makes them so different?
There is something about the ways a lot of spiders move that just freak us out a lot more than they should. But OctoKittens don’t move that way. It’s partly because they’ve put most of their brainpower into processing things right in front of them and partly because they have a few different design decisions factored in, but they just don’t move like most spiders.
Instead they move like a cross between a cat and a robot. Yes, that’s still a little weird, it’s more quirky than terrifying.
Speaking of robots...
Every group of critters has a bit of a smarts curve, and OctoKittens are no different. Among the most legendary, and rightfully so, is the talented Portia.
There’s not much room in there for thinky bits, but somehow they pull it off with gusto.
Portia has a brain that’s smaller than a grain of salt, yet she can strategize. She can lure another spider to the edge of their web to eat them, or walk right through a Black Widow’s web to eat the babies. She can tell if a spitting spider (one of the few creatures able to take her gram-for-gram) is carrying an egg sac in her mouth and therefore without her primary weapon. And we probably don’t know all the tricks that one little spider has up her sleeve
She’s not alone, there are a few others that are similar (I heard you going ‘Portia Portia Portia!’ over there, Brettus), and while they may not be bright compared to your average dolphin, their ‘Trump Number’ is possibly among the highest in the animal kingdom.
Even our sad little friend above is full of surprises!
I know some of you will NEVER be convinced, and that’s okay. This is for those of you thinking maybe I was cherry picking somehow and that most jumping spiders are all creepy.
By now you’ve probably noticed that they’ve got some serious peepers on them, they may have eight like most spiders but those two in front are like nothing any other arachnid has.
It’s what’s under the hood that’s special.
No, I didn’t know what ‘Image Defocus’ was either, but now that I do I’m pretty impressed. They used what little space they had to work with very well, and that explains those weird shadows moving around when they look at you. They have...eyetubes?
The fuzzy little self repairing dancing androids really can lay on the charm, can’t they?
OctoKittens. They were always OctoKittens. They just had the wrong name is all!
Somebody should fix that. Is there somewhere to go to correct such an obvious oversight?
h/t to MacroJunkie for the uncredited macro images, including the original for the ‘Bringed Me a Fly’ meme!
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