Spiderhenge and the Golden Spiderlings Within

Photo Credit – Troy S. Alexander, Tambopata Research Center

Deep in the Peruvian Amazon, mankind has discovered yet another amazing and intriguing structure.  But unlike other structures which were clearly constructed by humans, this particular formation is very small and very baffling.  A strange and previously unseen web-structure was first discovered by Georgia Tech graduate student Troy Alexander on the underside of a tarp.  The resemblance to the world-renowned Stonehenge monolith in the United Kingdom has given the discovery a host of nicknames, including silkhenge and spiderhenge.

Spidehenge resembles a tiny keep surrounded by a circular picket fence of web.  It’s just shy of an inch wide and less than an inch high, small by any measurement, but huge when it comes to science.  At first the student thought the odd shaped web was a portion of a larger, albeit unfinished cocoon.  After the discovery of more structures with similar shape, it was apparent that this was something, at the time, that was previously undiscovered.  Since this 2013 discovery, and it’s web-like construction, arachnolgists have been studying the structures.

Continual observation and perseverance paid off for the scientific community the next year, when scientists were able to observe and capture on video, orange-golden spiderlings emerging, one from each central structure.   Although the actual rationale for the structure and it’s fence, is still unknown, the fact that spiders are emerging will go a long way to helping the scientific community understand more about it.  Arachnologists will spend time observing the hatched spiders and hopefully be able to track them into adulthood to learn more.  So far there isn’t enough data available to determine if the orange spiders are a new species or one previously identified.

The silk fence is really the focal part of the mystery at this point, since even in the observance of the birth, the hatchlings didn’t seem to use it for anything.  Perhaps it serves as a deterrent to predators, but with such a small size, it’s unlikely.  Other theories are that is was to capture small mites and other tiny insects that newly hatched spiders could feed on, but so far that theory hasn’t shown any promise.  A third theory is that they are to block ants from entering and presumably eating the spider larvae.  Scientists expect it may take years to identify the why behind the spiderhenge.



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