What looks like Cthulhu, but is actually a tiny spider that's sort of adorable? This guy ...

Spider embryo 2016-02-25
Spider embryo. Molecular characterization and embryonic origin of the eyes in the common house spider Parasteatoda tepidariorum. Göttingen University.

This microscopic image comes from a 2015 study into the development of spider eyes, and it shows a common house spider (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) embryo developing inside its egg. The photo popped up recently on Reddit where it got mixed reviews, ranging from "this is so freaking cute" to "kill it with fire".

Not much is known about the embryonic development of spider eyes. With up to eight eyes per spider available for study, you'd think researchers would have taken advantage of all that optical 'real estate'. And a team of scientists from University of Göttingen decided to do just that. Their research, published in scientific journal EvoDevo in April last year, explores how the eyes of common house spiders grow and develop, and the genes involved in this process (it's available online if you're keen to read all about the "embryonic expression of core retinal determination genes").

It turns out we're not all that different from our arachnid bunkmates, if you can overlook the extra legs and the segmented body and ... well, okay, maybe we're a bit different. Yet the study did find that the formation of highly developed eyes like ours is controlled by the same sorts of genes that regulate eye formation in spiders (and other insects with compound eyes). In fact, the researchers argue that despite the stunning variety of peepers in the natural world, their development is controlled by only a small number of very similar genes.

So there you have it ... we all "look" the same, even adorable Cthulhu spiders.

Image header: Fyn Kynd Photography