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!
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.
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.