Marty’s photo of the day #4255: This short excerpt from my first book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents, explains the shot:

I flicked on my flashlight. “Deb! It’s a Belizean fangs-o-death!”

“Let me see. Wow, it’s amazingly similar to the orb weaver spiders in Belize. But its body isn’t as colorful or shiny.”

I had to agree. It wasn’t quite a Belizean fangs-o-death, but it was definitely in the same family. I reached for the door. “Whoa! There’s another one!”

The second spider’s web stretched between the top of the doorframe and the porch ceiling. Though I could open the door without destroying the web, I hoped the Aussie fangs-o-death wouldn’t decide to build on a mother-in-law apartment overnight.

I turned on the lights and lugged our gear inside. While Deb unpacked, I paged through the Wildlife of Tropical North Queensland book I had purchased earlier in the trip. Soon I found a matching picture. Like the spiders in Belize, the Aussie fangs-o-death was a golden orb weaver subspecies. I scanned the text to learn the human reaction to their bite. “None to severe,” it said. Well, that about covers it!

I grabbed my camera, stepped outside, and snapped a photo. When I looked at the image on the digital screen, the spider’s size was indeterminable.

“Deb, come here. I need you.”

“For what?”

“Slip your hand behind the web so I have something for size comparison.”

Deb looked at me and grinned. “You’re gonna make me do this, aren’t you?”

“As long as the Aussie fangs-o-death stays on her side of the web, you’ll be fine.”

“Okay, how’s this?” The span of the spider’s legs equaled Deb’s hand from wrist to fingertips.

“A little closer.”

“I’m practically touching it!”

I pushed the button and checked the image. “No, I still need you closer.”

“You owe me, big time!”

Now, the spider looked as if it were resting on her hand. I pressed the button again. “Don’t move. That one was out of focus.”

Deb frowned. “You’ve got fifteen seconds.”

“Okay, just one more. . . . Got it! Thanks, Hon.”

“No worries.”

“I suppose I should feed them now.”

“What, are they gonna be like Spike at Black Rock Lodge?”

“Yeah. We’ll make it a travel tradition. They’ll need names.”

“How ’bout Ozzie and Harriet?”

“Sure. But since both spiders are female, we’ll have to let Ozzie think she’s really Harriet. The last thing we need is a pissed off fangs-o-death.”