Giant Web, Snack-Size Fare
September 18, 2010 5:33 PM   Subscribe

Photos: World's Biggest, Strongest Spider Webs Found: "Unlike most spiders, Darwin's bark spiders will sometimes wrap several insect corpses into a single cocoon, creating a snack pack for later consumption."
posted by bwg (57 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was relieved to read that the spiders themselves tend to be smaller than an inch, which makes it even more amazing that they are able to create such massive webs.
posted by jellywerker at 5:49 PM on September 18, 2010


I just cracked up at the facial expression of that first park ranger. That cries out for a lolspider caption.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:54 PM on September 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I always follow links to pictures and articles about spiders for some reason, and I always regret it.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 5:55 PM on September 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


That's nice. Great post dude.

No way I'm clicking the link.
posted by marxchivist at 5:56 PM on September 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


The bridgeline distance itself is astounding.
posted by dhruva at 5:59 PM on September 18, 2010


I always follow links to pictures and articles about spiders for some reason, and I always regret it.

Not 5 minutes ago I was looking at an online medical photo essay on venomous spiders, so I got a double dose of it today. I will likely dream about spiders tonight. :/
posted by neuron at 6:02 PM on September 18, 2010


In Andasibe-Mantadia National Park (pictured), "the park rangers knew about them, and I think they've shown them to tourists for a while," said Agnarsson, of the University of Puerto Rico.

But the Darwin's bark spider and its record-breaking webs were unknown to science until they were documented by the team, whose findings appear this week in the Journal of Arachnology and PLoS ONE.


I find this really interesting. I know there are a lot of unknown species, but I guess I suspected that we had already classified the ones that people know about and see on a regular basis.
posted by danb at 6:04 PM on September 18, 2010


The Darwin’s bark spider's silk "is about the strength of steel but much, much tougher, because it also stretches. It's many times tougher than even Kevlar, which is one of the best man-made materials."

what
posted by Gator at 6:04 PM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I suspect that the silk is reinforced. It would take a lot attempts to get a bridgeline across the river, so once the spider has successfully built one web, no way it's going to move the web. So over time, the silk should be reinforced, but I'll have to read the article to see what part of the web they measured.
posted by dhruva at 6:07 PM on September 18, 2010


Here's another article.
posted by dhruva at 6:08 PM on September 18, 2010


Gator — I think they mean that weight for weight it's as strong as steel. If you took a piece of steel small enough to be as light as a cobweb, and stretched it across that river, it wouldn't be all that durable anymore.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:17 PM on September 18, 2010


I grow impatient for the long-promised spider silk body armor.
posted by darth_tedious at 6:23 PM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of this old favorite.
posted by Ritchie at 6:29 PM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


No way I'm clicking the link.

The spider itself is remarkably non-nerve-wracking. The web, however, is another matter.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:40 PM on September 18, 2010


One of the rangers "said the spiders do a Tarzan swing, like they hang down on the silk and swing over," Agnarsson said. "We really, really tried to verify that, but it turned out to be false."

Since then, team member Matjaz Gregorič has discovered the spider's trick and will describe it in a future science paper.
Aw come ON.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:00 PM on September 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


I imagine if I came to a river and saw a web that huge, I certainly wouldn't stick around long enough to find out that Shelob the spider that made it was only an inch across.
posted by hincandenza at 7:01 PM on September 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't get the fear of spiders thing. Spiders are awesome, and living in a place where I find black widows on my porch on a daily basis, I've never known anyone who was bitten by one. I have a large Rose tarantula as a class pet in my first-grade classroom, and kids I don't know are always coming up and asking if they can see her.

I've never met a child who was afraid of her, only parents, and even they seem fascinated when I tell them that she's about ten years old and might live to 20.

Hang around with a spider for long enough, you'll realize there's nothing to be afraid of...
posted by Huck500 at 7:03 PM on September 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


Awesome link, too, thanks.
posted by Huck500 at 7:03 PM on September 18, 2010


Yeah, not even with the Light of Elendil would I go anywhere near that fuckin' river.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 7:05 PM on September 18, 2010


Those spiders, bless their hearts, are just gearing up for a last ditch battle:

The Malagasy, the island's major ethnic group, have an expression that is elegant in its fatalism: "Aleo maty rahampitso toy izay maty androany," or "It's better to die tomorrow rather than today." The typical Madagascan lives on about a dollar a day.
And considering that Madagascar's population of more than 20 million is growing 3 percent a year—one of the most rapid rates in Africa—the tension between rich land and poor residents on a finite landscape increases by the day. For this reason alarmed ecologists have termed Madagascar a biodiversity hot spot, deploring, in particular, the Malagasy practice of slash-and-burn agriculture, in which swaths of forest are torched and converted to rice fields. Just as the global environmental community rejoiced in 2002 when Marc Ravalomanana assumed the presidency on a green-friendly platform, so did they react with dismay in the spring of 2009 as the military routed Ravalomanana from office and installed a constitutionally underage former radio disc jockey in his place.

posted by Huplescat at 7:05 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone who has in the past walked face-first into a smallish, thankfully unoccupied spider web or two, I can't really capture in words the sound I made when I saw that pic.

But the ranger's expression is almost worth it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:17 PM on September 18, 2010


Since then, team member Matjaz Gregorič has discovered the spider's trick and will describe it in a future science paper.

Aw come ON.
posted by Civil_Disobedient


I'd bet the spider first constructs a sail-like structure of silk and attaches that to its body, then waits for the wind to blow in the right direction, allows the wind to catch the sail and pull it across the gap as it spins out a silk line behind.

I guess it would be safer to construct the sail and attach it to something like the bundles of insect bodies and let that be pulled across the gap by the wind as the spider spins out silk like a kid with a kite, but then how would the bundle of insects anchor itself on the other side?
posted by jamjam at 7:44 PM on September 18, 2010


Hang around with a spider for long enough, you'll realize there's nothing to be afraid of...

Yes, sure, I know all that. I realize arachnophobia is irrational. On the other hand, the phobia part of my mind says AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by kmz at 7:58 PM on September 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have a large Rose tarantula as a class pet in my first-grade classroom, and kids I don't know are always coming up and asking if they can see her.

I've never met a child who was afraid of her, only parents, and even they seem fascinated when I tell them that she's about ten years old and might live to 20.

Hang around with a spider for long enough, you'll realize there's nothing to be afraid of...
posted by Huck500 at 7:03 PM


I really hate to do this, but I think there's something you should read.
posted by jamjam at 8:01 PM on September 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


What's irrational about aracnophobia? Jesus fuck, there is no way I'm clicking on the link.
posted by signal at 8:08 PM on September 18, 2010


.... Eärendil
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:13 PM on September 18, 2010


bwg: "Darwin's bark spiders will sometimes wrap several insect corpses into a single cocoon, creating a snack pack for later consumption."

Dangit.. Why are all the best fast food franchise ideas taken?
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:26 PM on September 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, spiders are fascinating.

On the other hand, KILL IT WITH FIRE BEFORE IT GETS TO THE CHILDREN
posted by Ratio at 8:29 PM on September 18, 2010


Huck500, that fear is a visceral thing, man... my rational self is fascinated by and admires spiders but if one gets on me, holeeeeey shit. It's all the legs.

These photos were particularly fascinating/horrifying because most look like they were taken at night, which ups the creepy ante.

Juvenile males also weave spider webs, but once they become adults, they abandon this behavior and instead direct their energies solely to sex.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose
posted by madamjujujive at 8:30 PM on September 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


*Shudder* - giant spider web in an east Texas State Park.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:04 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Juvenile males also weave spider webs, but once they become adults, they abandon this behavior and instead direct their energies solely to sex.

It's worse. In the species I worked on, the males mature earlier than the females, so they go and hang out on or near the juvenile female's web, waiting for the females to mature. Mate guarding.
posted by dhruva at 9:17 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love spiders. I really do. In fact my hobby is taking macro photographs of them. One thing I have never understood is how they make these large webs. Most of the web documentation seems to copy directly from wikipedia about how they make these large webs, by floating across the gap.

I understand that when spiders are young, they float along on long parachute like silk filaments. When I go fishing in the spring I see it a lot, and often end up with Longjawed Orbweavers on the end of my fishing pole. They float by and land there.

I used to run into a lot of Giant Lichen Orbweavers when I lived in San Antonio. They regularly make webs that span hiking trails, 6-8 ft minimum, I've seen webs span up to 10 feet or more. Huge webs, and of course they are all right about 6 ft high so I could run into them if I didn't pay attention.

But I wonder how they do it. Click on that picture. They are literally the size of golfballs. They are obviously too large to do this. And whats more, they are normal Araneids, so they take that web down every day, and remake it.

My theory goes something like this: They stick one end on a branch, then let out non-sticky thread and drop down, crawl to the next tree, climb up and fish the line in. Attach it, and reclimb over, strengthening it. And there you go. Seems like climbing up cedar trees with all their piney needles would make this impossible though.

I'm just an amateur arachnologist. Maybe a real one can enlighten me.
posted by sanka at 9:21 PM on September 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's worse. In the species I worked on, the males mature earlier than the females, so they go and hang out on or near the juvenile female's web, waiting for the females to mature. Mate guarding.

This behavior sounds like spider equivalent of those guys who kept the countdown on how many days it was till Emma Watson turned legal.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:46 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


creating a snack pack for later consumption.

Introducing new "On the Fly" SnackWraps....
posted by zarq at 9:47 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am very fond of spiders, but I am not goingto keep one as a pet, they like their space.

I do enjoy photographing and obseving spiders and when I worked, I was the spider rescuer. I don't kill non-venomous spiders.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:57 PM on September 18, 2010


Pretty much all spiders are venomous, you mean spiders that are dangerous to humans.
posted by sanka at 9:58 PM on September 18, 2010


Wood spider will cheer you up.
posted by furtive at 10:00 PM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Gator: The Darwin’s bark spider's silk "is about the strength of steel but much,
much tougher, because it also
stretches. It's many times tougher
than even Kevlar, which is one of the
best man-made materials." what


Strength and toughness are not the same thing. Often in fact they are opposed to eachother. Strength is a measure of the amount of load a material can take before fracture. Toughness is a measure of the amount of energy a material can withstand. Glass is a high strength, low toughness material. Lead is a low strength, high toughness material. It's rare (and valuable) to find both qualities in one material.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:03 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's some spider!
posted by TedW at 10:06 PM on September 18, 2010


In fact my hobby is taking macro photographs of them.

Those are rad photos.
posted by juv3nal at 10:44 PM on September 18, 2010


Spider silk!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:37 PM on September 18, 2010


Spider City!
posted by jet_manifesto at 11:47 PM on September 18, 2010


Living in the city of Darwin (Australia) as I do, discovering that Darwin is just the name of these spiders was extremely relevant to my interests.

We've already got enough creatures here trying to kill, maim or otherwise terrify us, we don't need freakishly large-webbed spiders. We already have to be on guard against crocodiles, jellyfish and Bindi Irwin, for god's sake.

I owe you one, $Deity.
posted by pseudonymph at 1:15 AM on September 19, 2010


Pseudonymph, I'm pretty sure you've got these, and if they're anything like the ones outside Perth, they can spin a web five feet across, with barrier webs and shock absorbers stretching out to about three or four times that distance.

Sorry.
posted by Ahab at 5:57 AM on September 19, 2010


I find it interesting that scientists can claim to have "found" these spiders after natives have known about them for however long and have shown them to tourists. I mean, I understand what they mean, but it kinda suggests that we probably need a new word for it.
posted by dudekiller at 6:43 AM on September 19, 2010


On the other hand, KILL IT WITH FIRE BEFORE IT GETS TO THE CHILDREN

Better yet. Wait until just after.

(I remember a recent naked scientist podcost where they talked about how spiders build webs that span wide areas and they said the spiders fire out a line in the wind and wait for it to connect to something before anchoring their end and getting on with it. This came up in the context of a question about why some people see strange flares of light in their garden and one person answered it by claiming it was sunlight reflecting of spider lines).

Spiders are neat but I still hate them. The English House Spider is a particular object of loathing as it invades my flat in numbers in the Fall with full Blitzkrieg speed (The English House Spider is apparently one of the faster spiders in the world). I've had one almost run across my hand while I was sitting on the couch. Fortunately, I married a woman of action who terminates them with prejudice so my paralysis isn't that big an issue. Mind you, she is away for the next two weeks...
posted by srboisvert at 9:22 AM on September 19, 2010


The spider-phobia is not hard to understand; it's that very often you don't see them till they're on you.

And have you never seen a bad spider-bite? It's nasty. And sometimes, you know, causes necroticized flesh, and usually you don't even know it happened till later.

And of course, the sticky webs that not only have dead bugs but eggs (!!!) in them that might get on your face, because again, you don't see them till it's too late.

And hey, for creepy? I once had to help my father in law free a bat from a big old spider web.
posted by emjaybee at 10:34 AM on September 19, 2010


I am NEVER going to Australia, and I am NEVER clicking on any of these links. more than just arachnophobia here, I often have dreams I'm walking through a house or garden that has huge webs spanning the open distances, that I must work my way past.....*shudder* there are never any occupants but the horror is still complete. these webs sound big enough to catch a PERSON. blah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by supermedusa at 11:53 AM on September 19, 2010


Hang around with a spider for long enough, you'll realize there's nothing to be afraid of...

I had a golden orb weaver living in my backyard for about a year. She mostly kept to herself, tending to her incredible structural web (for which the species is famous) in the mornings, but otherwise just hanging upside down all day. I was really sad over the two days when it was clear she was dying. In the end, she just hung upside down on the last remaining strand, while a pissant little spider came & raided her stash of insects. (sniffles)

Here's a photo of a golden orb weaver eating a bird that it caught in its web.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:58 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was half expecting a photo of Frodo stuck in the web mixed in with those shots.
posted by eviltwin at 3:21 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


neverneverneverNEVERnevergoingtoAustralia.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:19 PM on September 19, 2010


Be careful out there, folks - I am a testament to the "thinking makes it so" reality. I have been at the computer for hours because I have a writing deadline. I just went to brush what I thought was a hair from my neck and it was a SPIDER - aaaarrrghhhh. And a decent sized one by the feel of it, eeeeek!

OK, not as big as an Australian one, but that's what I'm talking about, people. They just get on you and run. It was on my damn neck, for God's sake, headed for the jugular no doubt.

Now I don't know where this one went. Psychic psycho spider on the loose.

dhruva and sanka, bring your cameras and come get this thing away from me!
posted by madamjujujive at 6:27 PM on September 19, 2010


Be careful out there, folks - I am a testament to the "thinking makes it so" reality.

Don't worry, madamjujujive, the Darwin's bark spider only tends to hunt mamallian prey around water, by building those massive, strong creek-spanning webs. So you're safe, unless you tend to kayak, canoe, or raft in the privacy of your own home.

Or shower. Baths and showering is right out.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:24 PM on September 19, 2010


come get this thing away from me

So I'm sitting at my desk working on some bloody manuscript or the other, and the head of the institute comes to my desk, and asks if he can talk to me. I figure, wow, this must be important, since he rarely pops in the door. Anyway, I ask him to sit down and speak, and he begins to tell me how his new office is overrun with spiders, and wants to know how to get rid of them, meaning, will I please go and get rid of the spiders. So I spent the next HOUR catching these spiderlings ONE by ONE. That's what a phd in spider behaviour will get you these days.
posted by dhruva at 8:52 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


We've already got enough creatures here trying to kill, maim or otherwise terrify us, we don't need freakishly large-webbed spiders. We already have to be on guard against crocodiles, jellyfish and Bindi Irwin, for god's sake.

A single piece of paper floated slowly down from the darkness of the top of the library, it simply read "Some of the sheep."
posted by quin at 9:21 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't let them tell you spiders aren't dangerous: Man blows himself up trying to kill a spider.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:41 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really hate to do this, but I think there's something you should read.

Yes, this is why no one ever touches my spider, and why she's in a large glass aquarium. It's not an issue.
posted by Huck500 at 9:38 PM on September 24, 2010


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