Spider of Destiny


The French like to make fun of their neighbours, the Belgians - FZ, on the other hand, liked to make fun of the French, and any nation which numbers amongst its gastronomic specialites chips, chocolate and beer is all right in my book! Its capital has even lent its name to that most English of delicacies, the Brussels Sprout, a vegetable consumed - as far as I am aware, and I stand to be corrected on this - in no other nation on earth, most especially Belgium.

However, not only justly famed for such domestic matters, the intrepid Belgians think nothing of venturing far abroad, penetrating the deepest jungles of the Congo in search of hitherto unrecorded species of spider. In 1981 and 1983 Belgian biologists from the Rijksuniversiteit Gent organized two expeditions to Mount Cameroon and neighbouring ranges. At various times during the mid to late 80's, the results of their arachnological findings were revealed to the world, but it was not until 1994 (in Zoologica Scripta, Vol. 23, No. 4, pages 325-352) that Robert Bosmans and Jan Bosselaers introduced us to the species they named Pachygnatha zappa. Here is Jan's beautiful drawing of it:

Not only is Pachygnatha zappa the creature with the most legs named after FZ, but it's also the only one bearing a physical resemblence to the man. As they explain in the paper:

"Etymology. Zappa is a noun in apposition. This species epithet is given in honor of the twentieth century composer Frank Zappa (1941-1993), well known for both his serious and commercial music. The dark grey mark on the ventral side of the abdomen of the female of this species strikingly resembles the artist's legendary moustache (Fig. 69)"

Jan's sketch makes this extraordinary resemblance clear:

I asked Jan why he chose the name zappa for the species, and he said:

"I never met Frank Zappa personally, but I was very interested in his music in the seventies and eighties. I saw about ten of his concerts in Brussels."
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