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In Japanese especially, insects and other creepy-crawlies get some extraordinary names. For example, we were walking in our woodlands the other day when a visitor from Wales spotted the strangest looking creature on a tall plant. He called me over, and at first glance it seemed to be the decapitated head of a praying mantis. Then he pointed out that it had legs, and a really close look revealed that it was a fat, greenish-looking spider.

My friend, Christian Searle, took a picture, and when we showed it to Mr. Matsuki, the forester, he said that it was a “fun damashi.” That translates as a “false or fake turd or dropping.” I thought it was his personal nickname for the beast, but when our staff looked it up on the Internet, we found that the spider’s real name in Japanese is otori fun damashi — a heck of a mouthful, whose translation comes out as “greater false bird poo.” I kid you not. I couldn’t find the English name for this spider, but the Latin name is Cyratarachne inaequalis.

There are several species of these strange-looking spiders, and they often sit out on the top of leaves, not at all shy and, according to Mr. Matsuki, well protected because they look like unappetizing bird droppings to birds and hornets. To me, though, this one looked more like a mantis head. What do you think?

Excerpt from “FROM CICADAS TO POO SPIDERS: ‘Stoopid ninja’ keeps on learning” By C.W. NICOL

OLD NIC’S NOTEBOOK Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007 Japan Times

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