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Spiders with ‘love bites’ puzzle scientists

A German researcher has discovered a new species of spider – apparently recognisable by its rather rough foreplay techniques.

Spiders with 'love bites' puzzle scientists
Photo: Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung / Kunz

The new breed of huntsman spider was identified by Dr Peter Jäger of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, the Institute said in a statement on Tuesday.

Jäger discovered the new breed after noticing that the female spider had bite marks on the front of her body.

“It's quite possible that these injuries occurred during mating,” Jäger said.

However, as researchers have not yet been able to watch the species mating, this is only speculation.

The male spider didn't have any bite marks – and if the injuries do occur during the courtship or mating rituals, Jäger isn't certain why the female seems to come off worse.

The new species of spider originates in the deserts of South Africa.

Mainly nocturnal, they live in tunnels under the sand and have a legspan of between eight and ten centimetres.

Equipped with bristles on their feet, they're well adapted to crossing the sandy plains.

After identifying the species, Jäger turned to collections back at the Frankfurt Institute – as well as in Namibia – to confirm his discovery.

“The creature was collected back in 2004 by a then-postgraduate student of mine,” Jäger said in a press release.

But now, Jäger has been able to scientifically identify and formally name the species.

At the Institute, genetic and molecular tests proved that the spider was indeed a new species – which Jäger named: “May bruno.”

Jäger also identified several different varieties within the new species, he reported in scientific journal “African Invertebrates.”

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Germany’s Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’

Germany's Scheffelbrücke might not seem like much to look at, but by some accounts it is the most expensive bridge in the world. Here’s what you need to know.

Germany's Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’
The Scheffelbrücke in Baden-Württemburg isn't known for its astounding beauty or engineering prowess - but it is known for its price tag. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

If you’re travelling near the Swiss border, you might come across the Scheffelbrücke – a quiet, two-lane bridge over the Radolfzeller Aach in Baden-Württemburg. 

By bridge standards, the 20-metre concrete construction seems relatively unremarkable – until you take a look at the engraved sign on the side which quotes the price tag. 

A sign on the bridge references the incredible price of the bridge: 1,520,940,901,926,024 Deutschmarks. 

That’s 1,500 trillion marks. 

Why is the Scheffelbrücke Germany’s most expensive bridge – and why is it so drab?

While Germany has the money and the landscape to have some expensive bridges, that over the Aach hardly rivals the Golden Gate, London Bridge or Sydney Harbour for elegance or ingenuity. 

The bridge, completed in 1923, takes the name of Joseph Victor von Scheffel, a German writer who will forever be associated with the glorified concrete slab. 

While one might suspect pork barrelling or crafty accounting as a reason for the astonishing cost – or perhaps a trick to reel in the tourists to the otherwise unassuming village of Singen – the cost is in fact real.

The high price is a consequence of the out of control post-World War One inflation which hit Germany, where money almost completely lost its value. 

A sign for the bridge reveals its extortionate building costs. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

Local authorities, wanting to boost the economy, signed off on the bridge as an infrastructure project. 

As a consequence, some local workers presumably became millionaires as a consequence – although there was perhaps little meaning to the idea of being a millionaire when a billion would only buy you a concrete bridge. 

Fortunately, Germany was able to bring inflation under control and wheelbarrows full of money were no longer required to purchase basic things.

And almost a century later, when not taking wacky inflation into account, Germany’s ‘most expensive bridge in the world’ no longer has that title. 

That goes to the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco (no, not the Golden Gate but the other one), which cost 6.3 billion US dollars – or roughly 5.2 billion euro  – to build. 

The Oakland Bay Bridge however goes for eight kilometres and possesses some of the aesthetic qualities which one would expect from the most expensive bridge in the world. 

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