New Spider Weaves Whopping Web
The Darwin bark spider of Madagascar spins webs that span rivers
This Darwin bark spider feeds in its web. (Matjaz Kuntner / Black Sheep)
Scientists have discovered a spider that weaves the largest webs ever found in nature. Darwin bark spiders observed in Madagascar spin anchor lines, or lines that attach their webs between two objects, up to 82 feet long. The orb, or round part of the web, spans up to 30 square feet.
Professor Ingi Agnarsson, the director of the Museum of Zoology at the University of Puerto Rico, discovered and observed the bark spiders recently with a team of scientists. They published their findings in the Journal of Arachnology. (Arachnology is the study of spiders.)
"They build their web with the orb suspended directly above a river or the water body of a lake, a habitat that no other spider can use," Agnarsson told BBC News.
The bark spider's huge web is quite effective for catching prey. Many insects fly straight into the web as they follow along a river or cruise over a lake. Scientists found more than 32 victims—mostly mayflies—captured in just one web.
The enormous size of the bark spider's web is just one feature that makes it so effective. The web's silk is also among the strongest and most durable scientists have ever observed. Researchers say the tough and stretchy silk can absorb more energy than Kevlar before breaking. Kevlar is a material used to make bulletproof vests.
Scientists will continue to study the Darwin bark spider. Some researchers believe the spiders could one day benefit humans. They think the silk could be used to create artificial muscle tissue.