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Top Ten Interesting and Fun Facts About Spiders

Updated on September 23, 2016
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Amanda is a retired educator with many years of experience teaching children of all ages and abilities in a wide range of contexts.

Everything you ever wanted to know about spiders but were too terrified to ask!
Everything you ever wanted to know about spiders but were too terrified to ask! | Source

Top Ten Spider Facts

1. Spiders Aren't Insects
2. There Are Many Spider Heroes in Ancient Mythology
3. Not All Spiders Spin Webs
4. Most Spiders Aren't Poisonous to Humans
5. Spider Skeletons Are Outside Their Bodies
6. Many Spiders Die After Mating
7. All Spiders Spin Silk
8. Some People Eat Spiders
9. Arachnophobia — Fear of Spiders
10. There Are Lots of Famous Spiders in Books

1. Spiders Aren't Insects

Spiders are not insects! Most people think they are, but they belong to a group of animals called arachnids.

Are Spiders Insects?

What is a spider? Is a spider an insect?

Many people think that spiders are insects but they're not. They belong to a different biological group called arachnids.

So, what's the difference between an insect and an arachnid?

The table below explains the differences between insects and arachnids.

Differences Between Insects and Arachnids

Insects
Arachnids
Three body parts: head, thorax, abdomen
Two body parts: head, abdomen
Antenna
No antennae
Many have wings
Never have wings
Six legs
Eight legs
Two eyes
Up to eight eyes
A Table Showing the Differences Between Spiders (arachnids) and Insects.

2. There Are Many Spider Heroes in Ancient Mythology

Spiders were often seen as mythological superheroes in ancient times!

Spiders, Spidermen and Spiderwomen in Myths and Legends

The comic book superhero, Spiderman, is only the most recent in a long line of spider-heroes dating back to ancient times.

Arachne - by Diego Valaquez

A detail from a painting by Diego Valaquez, showing the artist's impression of the beautiful weaver, Arachne.
A detail from a painting by Diego Valaquez, showing the artist's impression of the beautiful weaver, Arachne. | Source

Arachne

In the Ancient Greek Myths, the beautiful princess Arachne was an amazing weaver who was turned into a spider by the jealousy of the goddess Athena.

Can you guess where the scientific name for the spiders (arachnidae) comes from?

Anansi

In the folklore of West Africa and the Caribbean, there is a very popular spider character to whom it is said all stories belong.

His name is Anansi and he is known as a cunning trickster, storyteller and wisdom teacher, half man, half spider.

An old African word for stories is Anansesem and literally means 'a spider's web.'

Anansi stories are still very popular and you can find collections of them in book stores all over the world. They are still told orally, too, in schools and among families and friends.

Watch the video below to hear a story about Anansi.

Anansi and the Pot of Wisdom

The Egyptian Goddess, Neith

The Ancient Egyptian goddess, Neith, was thought to be in control of weaving together the threads of human destiny.

As such, one of her many sacred symbols was that of the spider spinning her web.

The idea of the world and time as a web of destiny is a common one throughout all cultures and time periods.

The goddess Neith was associated with war and weaving and was known as the mistress of spiders.
The goddess Neith was associated with war and weaving and was known as the mistress of spiders. | Source

Muhammad and the Spider

According to Islamic legends, when the Muslim prophet, Muhammad, was hiding in a cave from those who wanted to murder him, he was saved from his enemies by a spider.

The spider span a web across the entrance to the cave. When his enemies approached to kill the prophet, they saw the web and thought that no-one could have entered the cave's entrance as it remained unbroken.

In this video, the story of Muhammad and the spider's web is dramatized:

The Story of Mohammad and the Spider

3. Not All Spiders Spin Webs

Only about half of known species of spider spin webs.

All About Spider Webs

The first thing we think of when we think of spiders is the fact that spiders weave or spin webs.

Did you know that the prehistoric ancestors of the modern spiders pre-date the dinosaurs? Spiders have existed on Earth for more than a hundred million years!

They all have a spinneret - which is a gland on their backs from which they can produce long threads of gossamer or silk. But different species of spider use these threads in different ways.

Let's take a look at the web weavers and the non-web weavers and the interesting and surprising ways they use their gossamer threads.

Web Weaving Spiders

Not all web weaving spiders spin the classic net that we usually associate with a cobweb.

In fact, the species known as the Cobweb Spider spins a completely different kind of web.

Close Up of a Cobweb Spider

A beautiful photograph of a cobweb spider. Notice the typical arachnid body-structure.
A beautiful photograph of a cobweb spider. Notice the typical arachnid body-structure. | Source

Cobweb Spiders

The chances are that you've seen these spiders or their handiwork as they are one of the commonest families of spiders alive today. These are the kind that hang out in haunted houses and creepy old mansions in spooky books and movies!

They spin a tangled web in dark corners. The spiders then hide inside the web or in a crack or crevice nearby. When an insect is trapped in the sticky structure, the spider rushes out and sinks its venomous fangs into its prey.

Funnel Web Spider and Funnel Web

Funnel Weaver Spiders

Did you just watch the video above of the funnel weaver spider trapping an ant?

If you didn't, you really should - it is quite an amazing little movie!

As their name suggests, the funnel weaver spiders make a web in the shape of a long funnel, usually in grass or undergrowth.

The spider then hides deep down in the funnel, out of sight.

When its prey - in the video above an unsuspecting ant - wanders into the web, the vibrations alert the spider which dashes out and catches it.

Nursery Web Spider and a Nursery

The Nursery Spider spins a complex web to protect her newly hatched young.
The Nursery Spider spins a complex web to protect her newly hatched young. | Source

Nursery Web Spider

Nursery spiders are so called because they spin a web that guards their newly hatched young spiders in a protective, gossamer cocoon.

They are usually found in swamps and marshy areas, often building their nurseries under stones or old logs.

These spiders don't use their webs to catch food. They can walk on the surface of water.They hunt for tiny fish and tadpoles. For that reason they are also known as Fishing Spiders.

Garden Spider in Her Web

The Garden Spider is one of the few species that actually spin what we think of as a typical spider's web!
The Garden Spider is one of the few species that actually spin what we think of as a typical spider's web! | Source

The Garden Spider

Garden spiders spin a classic 'cobweb' shaped web. They wait at the edge of the web until an insect becomes caught on the sticky threads. Again, when the insect hits the web and struggles to get free, the vibrations alert the spider that there is something to eat.

Very often, the garden spider will catch more than it can eat. It wraps its extra food in a cocoon of gossamer before injecting it with poison and storing it in a 'larder' to be eaten later.

Amazing Water Spider Building Air Bubble

Close Up of a Water Spider

This close up shot of a water spider makes it seem as if she has a face. Actually, what looks like the nose is just a whole bunch more eyes! Can you count how many eyes she has?
This close up shot of a water spider makes it seem as if she has a face. Actually, what looks like the nose is just a whole bunch more eyes! Can you count how many eyes she has? | Source

Water Spiders - Underwater Webs

The water spiders are an amazing family of arachnids that actually build an air-filled web under water.

They swim upside down to the surface of the water where they trap a bubble of air. The bubble is brought down and used to add air to the under water web.

The spider can then slip inside and breathe in its secret hideout.

The water spiders catch bugs and underwater beetles to eat.

Check out the video above to see this astonishing little beastie in action!

Tarantula Documentary

Non-Web Weaving Spiders

The non-web weaving spiders tend to be much larger than the web-weaving spiders. One reason for that is that without the aid of a web they must be bigger and faster to hunt and catch their prey.

Do Tarantulas Make Good Pets?

The tarantulas are the world's largest spiders. They are big, hairy, dangerous and fast. And, apparently, they make good pets!
The tarantulas are the world's largest spiders. They are big, hairy, dangerous and fast. And, apparently, they make good pets! | Source

Tarantula

Of all these giants, the largest and most widely known - and feared - is the tarantula.

Tarantulas live in hot, tropical zones. They live in burrows, are hairy, venomous and very fast.

If you have nerves of steel, try watching the documentary about tarantulas in the video above!

Oddly enough, certain species of non-venomous tarantulas are commonly kept as pets.

Their owners claim that they are intelligent animals and very affectionate.

How about that?

Trapdoor Spider Grabs a Cricket - Blink and You'll Miss It!

Trapdoor Spider

The amazing trapdoor spiders live in burrows that they cover with a doorway made out of mud, sticks and leaves.

When they sense something moving nearby, they lift the trapdoor, rush out and snatch the prey, disappearing back into their secret hideout.

The prey is then eaten in the safety of the burrow.

If you've watched the video you'll know just how fast and deadly these spiders can be.

Burrowing Trapdoor Spider

The trapdoor spider in its burrow. The trapdoor itself, made of mud and grass, is open and you can see it on the left of the picture.
The trapdoor spider in its burrow. The trapdoor itself, made of mud and grass, is open and you can see it on the left of the picture. | Source

Wolf Spider Documentary

Wolf Spiders

The wolf spiders are so called because of the way they hunt - literally running after their prey!

They are mostly nocturnal (awake at night rather than during the day) and so they have very large eyes which help them to see in the dark.

They are also very hairy and actually have claws - another reason why they are called wolf spiders.

Wolf spiders also have an unusual and extraordinary way of laying their eggs - which you can see in the video above.

A Crab Spider Hunting and Catching a Bee

Crab Spiders

Crab Spiders are not very big but they are very smart!

They are small and often camouflaged in the colors of the flower or plant that they live on. Some are pale so that they are indistinguishable to their insect prey from petals or even bird droppings.

They move sideways and have long pincers - hence the name 'crab spider.'

If you watch the video you can see a tiny crab spider hunting and then catching a bee - an insect which is twice its own size!

The crab spider in the photograph blends in very well with the Lavandula plant it is hunting on.

Any bee or insect coming to get the pollen in those flowers is running a pretty high risk of being lunch!

Crab Spider

Crab spiders are often camouflaged to blend in with the plants they live on. This helps them to hunt and catch unsuspecting insect prey.
Crab spiders are often camouflaged to blend in with the plants they live on. This helps them to hunt and catch unsuspecting insect prey. | Source

Beautiful Lynx Spider

The Lynx Spider chases its prey as most non-web weavers do. This spider is not actually weaving a web, but making a larder in which to keep its food store.
The Lynx Spider chases its prey as most non-web weavers do. This spider is not actually weaving a web, but making a larder in which to keep its food store. | Source

4. Most Spiders Aren't Poisonous to Humans

Most spiders are not poisonous to humans.

Spiders and Poison

However, almost all spiders kill their prey by using their poison-producing fangs, which they sink into the prey's body. Usually, this venom first paralyses and then digests the body so the spider can suck up the resulting, nutritious goo.

However, some spiders can be deadly to humans. The Black Widow and certain Bird-Eating spiders can have venom so strong that it can kill a human within minutes.

The video below is about the most deadly of all living spiders. Watch it if you dare!

The World's Deadliest Spider

5. Spider Skeletons Are Outside Their Bodies

Spiders' skeletons are outside their bodies!

Spider Exoskeletons

Yes, spiders are among the species that have what is known as an exoskeleton.

That is, much like crabs, the hard, supportive parts of their body structure - the skeleton - are on the outside of their bodies.

This way, the skeleton not only provides support but it also provides protection by encasing the spider's vital organs in a shielding outer shell.

In order to grow, the spider undergoes a 'molt' and sheds its old exoskeleton before a new one hardens around it.

This is a time when spiders are quite vulnerable and so they usually hide away to molt.

Want to see a spider molt? Watch this AMAZING video:

Huntsman Spider Shedding its Exoskeleton

This photo shows a Huntsman spider emerging from its old exoskeleton after molt.
This photo shows a Huntsman spider emerging from its old exoskeleton after molt. | Source

Spider Molting

6. Many Spiders Die After Mating

Many species of spider die once they have successfully reproduced.

How Long Do Spiders Live?

Many spiders only live for a year. Some may not even live that long. In the wild, they are subject to diseases, predation and accident which can lower their chances of reaching genetic old age.

The web-spinning spiders never live beyond two or three years.

In the protection of captivity, however, with optimum nutrition and expert care, some tarantulas have been known to live up to 35 years old.

Average Lifespan of Some Common Spiders

Species
Average Lifespan
Garden Spider
up to 1 year
Water Spider
up to 2 years
Wolf Spider
up to 5 years
Crab Spider
up to 2 years
Male Tarantula
up to 10 yrs
Female Tarantula
20 years +
Lynx Spider
up to 1 year
Funnel Web Spiders
up to 1 year

Spider's Web Covered in Dew

Spider's webs are made of gossamer silk. The threads are so fine that the web is almost invisible. Webs can be seen in the early morning, when they are covered in water droplets from the morning dew.
Spider's webs are made of gossamer silk. The threads are so fine that the web is almost invisible. Webs can be seen in the early morning, when they are covered in water droplets from the morning dew. | Source

7. All Spiders Spin Silk

Even the spiders that don't build webs make silk or gossamer.

How Do Spiders Make Silk?

All species of spider have a special gland known as a spinneret, usually on the lower back.

The silken threads of the web are synthesized as needed by molecular processes within the gland.

The threads are light, thin but surprisingly strong. They are used not only to spin webs but also to build egg sacs, larders, burrow linings, signalling to other spiders and climbing.

In fact, only half the spider species actually spin webs!

Time Lapse Video of a Spider Spinning a Web

Tarantula Appetizer...

Crispy, fried tarantulas are said to taste like crab meat and are a very popular snack or appetizer in Cambodia.
Crispy, fried tarantulas are said to taste like crab meat and are a very popular snack or appetizer in Cambodia. | Source

8. Some People Eat Spiders

People eat spiders!

Yummy Edible Spiders

Yes, it's true. In some parts of the world, people actually eat spiders.

It seems a pretty revolting idea to most westerners, but in many parts of the east Asian countries it is considered quite normal.

Unless you are a vegetarian, there's no logical difference between eating, say, some beef and eating a spider.

The Chinese don't traditionally eat cheese - it seems revolting to them to eat rotten milk that has gone hard!

In Cambodia, an edible Tarantula species is farmed, being bred in holes. It is usually eaten fried in oil as a tasty, slightly crunchy snack. Yum!

I wonder if you'll be able to stomach watching the following video all the way through?

Preparing, Cooking and Eating Tarantulas in Cambodia

9. Arachnophobia — Fear of Spiders

The fear of spiders is called Arachnaphobia.

It's from two Greek words - Arachne (the spider goddess of destiny and weaving, remember?) and Phobia, meaning 'fear'.

Arachnaphobia is the most common of all human fears.

Sometimes sufferers have it so bad that they daren't even look at a picture of a spider or hear the name mentioned.

There are many theories about the origin of the fear of spiders.

The most common is that it evolved millions of years ago when the risk of a spider bite could mean certain death.

Interestingly, however, fewer people are afraid of snakes - even though there more injuries and deaths caused by snakes than spiders.

10. There Are Lots of Famous Spiders in Books

There are many famous spider characters in classic books!

Famous Literary Spiders

  • Spiderman - a comic book superhero whose alter ego is the newspaper reporter, Peter Parker. Of course, he has later become the subject of box office busting movies, too!
  • Charlotte - the smart spider from Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. She saves the life of a pig called Wilbur. This is one of the most beautiful stories in American children's literature.
  • Shelob - a gigantic spider from J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. She guards the gates to Mordor. Terrifying and strange - just what you'd expect from the original master of fantasy!
  • Aragog - a fictional, flesh-eating spider owned by the character Hagrid in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. The latest in a long line of fantastical spiders!

Can you think of any other spider characters not already mentioned here?

J. R. R. Tolkien

J R R Tolkien was the author of The Lord of the Rings and inventor of the giant spider, Shelob. This bust was sculpted by Faith Tolkien and is on display in his hometown of Oxford, England.
J R R Tolkien was the author of The Lord of the Rings and inventor of the giant spider, Shelob. This bust was sculpted by Faith Tolkien and is on display in his hometown of Oxford, England. | Source

What Do You Think?

Do you think spiders are...

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And that's the last of our top ten interesting and fun facts about spiders.

Like them or loathe them, there's no doubt that they are fascinating creatures who have lived alongside humans for a very long time - whether feared or farmed, admired and worshipped, inspiring literature, art and poetry - and it looks as though they are here to stay.

One Question Quiz


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© 2014 Amanda Littlejohn

Do you like spiders? Are you afraid of them? Have you ever eaten one? I'd love to hear from you!

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love to learn stuff like this. I guess I'm just a big old nerd at heart, but I find this so interesting. Thanks my friend, and have a great day.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed learning all the weird and wonderful facts about spiders that this hub contains!

      Nothing wrong with being a bit of a nerd, by the way... ;)

      Bless you. :)

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 2 years ago from Houston TX

      I love to spend time watching at spiders spinning their webs. Its quite surprising to know that the webs that comes out from spiders are in a liquid state at first, but when air touches it, it becomes a solid rope. kudos, nice hub!

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi crystolite!

      Thanks so much for your fascinating contribution to this look at spiders! The details about the way that the web silk is formed are especially interesting.

      Bless you :)

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 2 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Very well-researched and well-written article, though the pictures were a little gross haha :P Good use of a table to show the differences between insects and arachnids because you're right, a lot of people don't know the difference. Interesting myths and legends too, I didn't realise there were so many. Thumbed this article up. Great work :)

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi poppyr!

      Thanks you for your kind comments. I'm glad that you enjoyed the information and pictures. Did you watch the video of the guy actually eating a tarantula?

      Yes, a lot of research went into this one but I think it was worth it. For me, that's more than half the fun!

      Thanks again for your contribution. Bless you :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      This was neat, and I learned a lot, Mindi! Great hub! I used to work in a psychology lab doing phobias research with -- you guessed it snakes and spiders. (A big fat hairy tarantula we nicknamed Ursula.) Voted up and pinning this hub, sharing as well.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi Shelley!

      Thank you for your lovely comment and the shares!

      Fascinating that you worked in psychotherapy using a tarantula to help people overcome their arachnaphobia. Did you write a hub about that? You should, it would be fascinating and in your hands no doubt also very funny and insightful.

      Thanks again. Bless :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Amanda.....I confess to having a severe case of ARACHNAPHOBIA. I managed to read your very interesting hub all the way through without looking at a single photo. I just focused on the text!

      Although knowledge and useful information if one of my favorite things........I gotta tell you, I find NOTHING fun or nice or positive about spiders.......this goes double for snakes.

      Thanks for the education.......Now I'm spending the rest of the day erasing all creepy creatures from my head!!! Up++

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi Paula!

      Well, I think you were very brave to overcome your fear of spiders in order to read this hub! I guess you didn't watch the video of folks eating tarantulas in Cambodia, either...

      I think they're pretty amazing animals but of course they have evolved to seem scary and some of them are poisonous so, hey, no shame in finding them creepy.

      Get in touch with Shelley (FlourishAnyway) and maybe she can help you get over it, though (see her comment above). :)

      Thanks for your contribution. Bless you :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Hmmm....Phobia research? I don't have enough time to study all my phobias....(passed on down through the generations).....and Yes, I realize they're ridiculous. Heights, speed, large bodies of water, creepy crawlers.....I should be ashamed of myself.....

      I won't bother Shelley at this point! All my grandchildren know the rules. Grandma will do anything for them, EXCEPT: go climbing, racing, water skiing or Bug hunting!!! LOL! Anyone for a game of Hopscotch??

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Well yes, maybe! I guess there's even a fear of phobias - maybe phobiaphobia?

      Thanks again for your comments - really made me smile :)

    • Maggie.L profile image

      Maggie.L 2 years ago from UK

      What a super amazing article. I'll be bookmarking this one for future reference! I'm not afraid of spiders but all of my kids are. Voted up and very interesting.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Why, thank you, Maggie.L!

      I'm happy you're not afraid of spiders. I wonder why your kids are?

      Thanks for you comment. Bless you :)

    • snerfu profile image

      Vivian Sudhir 2 years ago from Madurai, India

      Absolutely fascinating stuff -- after reading about spiders I have discovered a new dimension to life. I used to dismiss them without too much thought. Guess now I will tread with greater caution. Voted up and will be back to brush up on those spiders.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi snerfu!

      Thanks for your comment! I agree, that we can often easily overlook these little (or not so little - some of them) critters without a second thought. But if you pause to look, to study and to appreciate - a world of tiny wonders unfolds!

      Spiders are amazing. They were here long before we were and I dare say they'll be here long after we've either evolved into something else, blown ourselves up or rocketed off to colonize some other planet.

      Bless you :)

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Interesting how the vote is going on this!

    • profile image

      Alex Brown 2 years ago

      Cool info, im always looking for different stuff involving spiders. Thank you for making this.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi Alex!

      Thanks for reading this and I'm glad you found it useful. I think spiders are fascinating and beautiful creatures. I certainly enjoyed the research to put this together.

      Bless you.. :)

    • profile image

      Donald 2 years ago

      Agh! NO WAY! OMG! They EAT tarantulas!?! And that guy in the video eat one! OMGOMGOMG!!!!!!

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi Donald!

      Thanks for your comment and...well, you sure ain't alone in finding the idea of eating tarantulas kinda yucky. But it's true - as you've seen for yourself. Seems it tastes a bit like crab (to which spiders are related).

      I think I'd be up for trying it. :)

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 17 months ago from Essex, UK

      Very good comprehensive hub Amanda, which should give children and parents of children, good information to illustrate the key characteristics and diversity of spiders and hopefully reduce some of the fears of spiders which people have.

      I particularly love the opening composite photo of 18 spiders which perfectly illustrates various types - useful for getting children to appreciate the diversity, and to look out for different kinds. I like also your simple guide to the differences between spiders and insects, and the range of videos you present - particularly the spider-eating video from Cambodia and the slightly more charming story of Anansi! All told, a useful article.

      I will share on HubPages and on Facebook in one of the writing groups there. Cheers, Alun

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 16 months ago

      Hi Alun!

      Thanks for your lovely comment and contribution - as thoughtful and insightful as ever.

      Yes, I love spiders and while there can be no doubt that certain species we do well to be wary of, most of them are not only harmless but very beautiful and absolutely fascinating in their range of biological adaptations.

      Bless you. :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 8 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This is a very comprehensive and interesting hub about spiders. Well done.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 8 months ago

      Hi Jodah,

      Thank you so much. I do appreciate your comment! :)

    • profile image

      Maya Sual Kee Schlabach 4 days ago

      i love this web site❤

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 33 hours ago

      Thank you! I'm glad you like it. :)

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