Kingdom Of The Spiders

August 31st, 2007at 11:13am Posted by Eli

If you’re looking for sights to see in North Texas, you should probably check this out:

Most spiders are solitary creatures. So the discovery of a vast web crawling with millions of spiders that is spreading across several acres of a North Texas park is causing a stir among scientists, and park visitors.

Sheets of web have encased several mature oak trees and are thick enough in places to block out the sun along a nature trail at Lake Tawakoni State Park, near this town about 50 miles east of Dallas.

The gossamer strands, slowly overtaking a lakefront peninsula, emit a fetid odor, perhaps from the dead insects entwined in the silk. The web whines with the sound of countless mosquitoes and flies trapped in its folds.

Allen Dean, a spider expert at Texas A&M University, has seen a lot of webs, but even he described this one as “rather spooky, kind of like Halloween.”

Mr. Dean and several other scientists said they had never seen a web of this size outside of the tropics, where the relatively few species of “social” spiders that build communal webs are most active.

(…)

The web may be a combined effort of social cobweb spiders. But their large communal webs generally take years to build, experts say, and this web was formed in just a few months.

Or it could be a striking example of what is known as ballooning, in which lightweight spiders throw out silk filaments to ride the air currents. Five years ago, in just that way, a mass dispersal of millions of tiny spiders covered 60 acres of clover field in British Columbia with thick webbing.

Awesome.

By an odd coincidence, I just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys last night – the main character is the son of a spider god.

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science,Weirdness


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