After half a year of research, scientists have finally identified the small spider responsible for building intricate, circular nests in the Amazon Rainforest, structures which have baffled the internet for months.
In June 2013, Georgia Tech graduate student Troy Alexander traveled to Peru to work for the Tambopata Macaw Project, and returned to the United States with extraordinary photos of never-before-seen structures built by an unknown insect or arachnid. Hoping to quickly identify these strange, fence-like structures, Alexander posted his photos to Reddit.
The story could have ended there with a positive ID, but the images stumped professional entomologists moderating the “whatsthisbug” subreddit, and the photos went viral. Amateur and professional biologists from all over the world weighed in, trying to figure out what types of creatures could possibly create such an elaborate egg sack.
Finally, naturalist Phil Torres and his team returned to the Tambopata Research Center, where Alexander had first discovered the structures. After extensive research and preparation, they documented the hatching of the egg sac, revealing small, orange spiders.
“We’re still attempting to identify the spider,” Torres wrote on his blog. “We saw a few adult spiders around that were prime suspects (for building the structure), but never saw any making it, so the construction and culprit remain a mystery.”
With further study and assistance from arachnologists, it is possible that sometime soon we will know the species of spider building the egg-sacks, and understand how they build these amazing structures in the first place.