This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Nuts and Bolts: the purring of the forest.

The forests of the USA purr. Yes, they do: they vibrate softly to the purring of spiders.

And what does a spider have to purr about? A succulent fly steak, perhaps?

Well, probably not that, because most singing is about either courtship or territory: but even if the spiders' purring turns out to be  about the attractively glistening hair on a lady spider's legs then this song would be remarkable because spiders can't actually, well, hear.

This inconvenient fact has not daunted those intrepid scientists from the University of Cincinnati, Alexander L Sweger and George W Uetz. They've been having a good listen to the purring wolf spider, Gladicose gulosa, the males of which species purr by dragging a special comb-like organ across the surface they're sitting on.

How do the female spiders hear this purring? Well, they can't, as I've said, but they can detect vibration with the sensillae in their knees - and if you purr while sitting on a leaf it makes it vibrate in an apparently extremely alluring way.

Purring wolf spiders have been around for a long time, so this might be the oldest love song that's ever been discovered, even though it's a love song for a lady who can't hear. you know, as someone who was once wooed by a Spanish folk singer and guitarist, I can even sort of see how that might be an advantage.

Word To Use Today: purr. This word from the 1600s sounds like a purr. Obviously.


  1. I feel bad about not having visited the Word Den for ages....I miss stuff like this. Will try and do better in future! Brilliant...

    1. You're very welcome, Adele. Yes, it's fascinating - now I'm longing to visit the forests of the USA. Sort of. Possibly...