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In 2013 scientists doing research in Peru came across a strange structure made of spider silk never before seen. The structure, referred to as “Silkhenges” due to its mysterious origins and resemblance to the famous Stonehenge, is comprised of a single silky tower-like structure surrounded by a circular picket fence also made out of spider silk. The incredibly intricate structure confounded scientists, as they have never actually witnessed a spider creating one, and they still have been unable to identify the species of spider that creates these silky works of art.
Since spotting the first Silkhenge in Peru, scientists have also spotted more of the silky structures in French Guiana and Ecuador. Despite exhaustive efforts to catch the spider architect in the act of building one of these structures, they have still never been able to catch the elusive spider. However, they did catch a lucky break when one little translucent spiderling finally emerged from the silky spire of a Silkhenge they had brought back to their research center. This confirmed that a spider was the culprit, but because spiderlings are too tiny and undeveloped, they couldn’t identify which species or genus was responsible. There was also the question of why a spider would create such an elaborate structure for one single egg.
After discovering these same structures in other countries, they found that one structure in Ecuador contained three spiderlings that eventually emerged from the silk tower. Still unable to find the adult spider that creates the intricate structures, scientists are now trying to raise the spiderlings that hatched into adulthood. If they can successfully grow an adult spider in the future, the mystery of its species and genus might finally be solved. Unfortunately, so far their attempts to raise the spiderlings into adulthood have failed. This is certainly one tough egg to crack.
Why do you think the spider that makes these complicated structures puts so much effort into protecting their eggs? Have you ever seen a spider web or structure made of spider silk that was unusual? Did you ever discover what spider made it and why it is different from the norm?
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