Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/160

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154
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tically alike, generally dropping almost perpendicularly into the earth for about six to nine inches, with the opening a little larger than the rest of the cylinder; but the doors are different. Stasimopus has a thick cork-like door, with bevelled edge, which fits into the hole, being a little larger at the top than at the bottom. The thickness of the door of Gorgyrella varies; sometimes it is cork-like (though not so thick as the thickest Stasimopus lids), and, at other times, thin and not so firm and solid, in which case its bevelled edge is not so pronounced, and it more overlaps the edge of the hole. The lids of both are always on bare ground, covered with earth, and just flush with the surrounding surface. But there is one essential, and, as far as my experience goes, constant variation in the lids; that of Stasimopus is round, with a slighter hinge, which does not apparently break into the outline of the circle, while that of Gorgyrella is an incomplete circle, more or less D-shaped, with a broad, strong hinge. In the case of both, the silk that forms the hinge is so arranged as to act as an elastic spring which closes the door automatically. (The nest of Gorgyrella was unknown until I found it here, but I have sent some good specimens—as well as many other nests—to the museum, where they may be compared with those of Stasimopus; the spider itself is unrepresented—or at any rate unrecorded—in any European museums.)

It is only the females and young that build these nests; the adult males of the whole family are supposed to live under stones. Both sexes are nocturnal in their habits. The females are common but difficult to find; the males, however, are extremely rare; the male of Gorgyrella has never yet been found. I found one male Stasimopus, which was the second specimen in the South African Museum collection, only one other specimen—that in the British Museum—having been recorded previously. He is hardly recognizable as being what he is, for he is small (about half an inch long), black, with greatly elongated palps. He cuts a very diminutive figure beside his huge and powerful consort.

Among my Gorgyrella finds recently have been two with cocoons and one with young. It would seem that, when the eggs are laid and until the young are strong, the female shuts herself up in the hole; for in all three cases I found the lid closed down securely. The hole containing the mother and young was actually so fastened down that I had to tear it open all round the edge. I am not sure that the other two were also stitched down, but the ground had caked round the edges, effectually fastening them down.

These nests are difficult to discover, indeed almost impossible, except after rain, when, if you know where to look and what to look for, you may find a good many; for the holes being hollow, the lids