Mystery solved! White Tower silken tree structures made by spiders

This is SO EXCITING! We have an update on what those strange “white tower” mystery tree structures from Peru are done by spiders. It was not an easy mystery to solve!

fence and spire mystery

We Went to the Amazon to Find Out What Makes These Weird Web-Tower Things – Wired Science.

After six months of speculation, we finally know what’s building these bizarre silk structures in the Amazon: a spider! But its precise identity is still a mystery that scientists are scrambling to solve as I write this.

Last week we followed these spider-hunting scientists, led by entomologist Phil Torres, deep into the Amazon rainforest as they attempted to find the tiny silk towers and figure out where they came from. It has not been an easy case to crack.

Reeves and Torres collected some of the structures and brought them back to the research center. They isolated the towers from one another, took measurements, and waited for something to hatch. Additional photos taken at the lodge showed small sacs consistently concealed within the base of the towers, and more small mites crawling around or stuck in the fences.

For six days, Reeves, Torres, and Hill watched the tiny towers, all the while considering different hypotheses.

Finally, on Dec. 16 as the scientists were preparing to leave the rainforest without an answer, two of the eggs hatched and Torres saw two tiny spiderlings running around the base of the structures. “We were excited about that but still hesitant,” Torres said, noting that most of their hypotheses so far had fallen through.

But the next day, a third egg hatched and produced another small spider. “That really confirmed it for me,” Torres said. “Anything we saw crawling in there had to have come out of the structure.”

This is great work. The scientists note that the degree of parental care is immense considering there is only one baby spider inside each structure. And it’s still not clear what purpose the structure serves.

There is even a video.

New Clues and Some Wild Guesses About Those Strange Spider Towers in the Amazon – Wired Science.

Scientists are still struggling to find out the kind of spider is making these structures which have now been sighted also in Ecuador and French Guiana. (The structure in French Guiana was spotted nearly a decade ago.) Unconfirmed reports have come from Brazil, several places in the United States, and Belgium. It’s too difficult to determine characteristic of a spider so young. The adult forms are not yet known. Arachnologists are taking a look and debating some options.

But, this is SO NEAT – SCIENCE RULES.

  6 comments for “Mystery solved! White Tower silken tree structures made by spiders

  1. Bo Gardiner
    December 24, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    Those guys must be so excited; I’m really happy for them. Quite a Christmas gift. ONE spiderling per tower?!!! I never would have thought it possible that spiders could invest so much in a single offspring. It’s as if the parents have built an elaborate fort of sticky webbing to keep out predators — or to trap prey to feed the hatchling. Now they’re watching the babies with bated breath, perhaps wondering if these are a new species. Awesome, and thanks for the update, Sharon.

    • December 24, 2013 at 3:09 PM

      Awesome.

      • eddi
        December 25, 2013 at 2:09 AM

        SCIENCE!

  2. Captain Bee Fart
    December 25, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Astonishing that such an elaborate egg mass contains only one spiderling. More research is definitely in order.

    • eddi
      December 26, 2013 at 1:46 AM

      As has been said, that’s a lot of effort for little return. At least apparently. Going by the mystery the egg case caused, I assume this is a unique behavior. All the spiders I’m familiar with create an egg cluster with webbing and fill it with hundreds of eggs. Most get eaten, some by each other. Could isolating each egg be to prevent that? Allowing for fewer eggs produced but a better survival rate? I love a good mystery.

  3. matt zencat999
    January 3, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    maybe …..since this is only one per tower, and that these towers seem to be biologically “expensive” for just one offspring that they may find that this spider grows to be quite old and very big and very aggressively predates (for a spider). when there is only one offspring it tends to be from a dominant species. no need to over power the predators with massive numbers of offspring all at once.
    makes sense but an hypothesis is just an hypothesis. Im excited to see what we learn.

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