Researchers Matjaz Kuntner and Ingi Agnarsson of the Smithsonial National Museum of Natural History recently “stumbled upon a new species of spider that spins webs as large as 82’ long. But what was even more amazing was the fact that the giant webs “suspended across flowing bodies of water. It’s the first time any spider has been shown to achieve such a feat,” they reported in a new study.
The Darwin bark spiders (Caerostris darwini) were discovered in Madagascar, and are members of a little known family of arachnids with only 11 (known) species, “all in the Old World.” Until now, scientists were only able to observe females for most of these. However, Agnarsson and Kunter were lucky enough to be able to nab both male and female Darwins. “The females are just over .78 inches in body size, inclusing legs, making them about the size of a large coin, or even a human thumb. The males, however, are about 5 times smaller,” Kuntner told Discovery News.
The team is interested in learning exactly how the Darwin bark spiders construct webs across streams, rivers, and lakes. In Madagascar, orb-shaped webs spanning up to 30 square feet, with anchor lines up to 82 feet in length. It was also found that they were made of the most durable silk of any spider species.”
As a result, the Darwin bark spider silk is also generating a lot of interest in the field of biomedical engineering. “Spider silk is ideally suited to function in tendon repair because it is so strong, but also stretchy enough to maintain joint mobility. It is also potentially useful as a scaffold for growing tissue, such as helping repair bone and for bandages and sutures,” Todd Blackledge, a researcher from the University of Akron studying the Darwin’s silk, explained.