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The 'spidernaut,' NASA's new insect zoo star, dies

December 03, 2012|By Richard Simon | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
  • The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is shown above. The spider that spent 100 days in space died at the museum on Monday.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is shown above. The… (Smithsonian Institution )

WASHINGTON — The “spidernaut” has died.

Just days after becoming a star attraction at the National Museum of Natural History’s Insect Zoo, the spider that spent 100 days in space was found dead Monday.

“The unexpected loss of this special animal who inspired so many imaginations will be felt throughout the museum community,” Kelly Carnes, a museum spokeswoman, said.

The spider, named Nefertiti, died of natural causes, according to the museum.

The spider visited the International Space Station in a science experiment proposed by an 18-year-old Egyptian student, Amr Mohamed, to examine how spiders would hunt prey in microgravity. Nefertiti, was indeed able to catch her prey — fruit flies.

Nefertiti lived for 10 months. The lifespan of the species P. johnsoni  is typically up to one year, the museum said.

Nefertiti’s educational mission, however, will continue. “The body of Nefertiti will be added to the museum’s collection of specimens where she will continue to contribute to our understanding of spiders,’’ Carnes said.

richard.simon@latimes.com

[For the record, 2:35 p.m. Dec. 3: An earlier version of this post featured a photograph of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and said that NASA’s “spidernaut” died there. The spider, which had been part of an experiment at the International Space Station, died at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.]

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