Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Enormous Spider Web Found In Texas

Date:
September 13, 2007
Source:
Texas A & M University
Summary:
A massive spider web first spotted covering several acres of oak-elm woodlands along a Lake Tawakoni State Park trail in early August made national and international headlines throughout the Labor Day Weekend. Stumped as to the web's origin, the initial consensus of arachnologists and entomologists who saw an online photo of the web sent by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist Mike Quinn was that it may have resulted from a "mass dispersal" event. In such an event, millions of tiny spiders or spiderlings spin out silk filaments to ride air currents in a phenomenon known as "ballooning."

Giant communal spider web at Lake Tawakoni State Park, Texas
Credit: Photo by Donna Garde on 08/23/07 Copyright Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.

An arachnaphobe’s worst nightmare, the gauzy, insect-laden web drew more than 3,300 curious visitors over the three-day holiday to this 376-acre park on the shore of Lake Tawakoni, 50 miles east of Dallas. On Labor Day, the park recorded 1,275 people visiting just to see the web.

an 3,300 curious visitors over the three-day holiday to this 376-acre park on the shore of Lake Tawakoni, 50 miles east of Dallas. On Labor Day, the park recorded 1,275 people visiting just to see the web.

“When I first saw it,” said Park Superintendent Donna Garde, “I was totally amazed. What ran through my mind was that this looked like something out of a low-budget horror movie, but I was looking at something five times as big as what you’d see on a Hollywood set.”

Stumped as to the web’s origin, the initial consensus of arachnologists and entomologists who saw an online photo of the web sent by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist Mike Quinn was that it may have resulted from a “mass dispersal” event. In such an event, millions of tiny spiders or spiderlings spin out silk filaments to ride air currents in a phenomenon known as “ballooning.”

Quinn collected a sample of spiders Aug. 31 from in and around the gigantic web and took them to Texas A&M University in College Station for analyses. Entomology Department researcher Allen Dean identified 11 spider families from the sample. The most prevalent species was the Tetragnatha guatemalensis, or what Quinn dubbed the Guatemalan long-jawed spider, since this species didn’t have a common name. Guatemala was the country in which it was first documented.

“I drove 50 to 100 spiders to A&M on Saturday,” Quinn said. “Spider experts tend to specialize in one or few families of spiders. There are nearly 900 species of spiders known from Texas, so no one is an expert on all the species.”

Quinn described the Lake Tawakoni web as “sheet webbing” since it covers a large area of trees, which is more typical of a web spun by a funnel web spider rather than the classic Charlotte’s web, or orb web, like that produced by long-jawed spiders. He speculates that the park’s spider population exploded due to wet conditions this summer that resulted in an abundance of midges and other a small insects upon which the spiders feed.

The Guatemalan long-jawed spider ranges from Canada to Panama, and even the islands of the Caribbean. According to Quinn, the spider is about an inch in length with a reddish-orange head- and-thorax. Spiders, like mites and scorpions, are arachnids, a group of arthropods with four pairs of legs, saclike lungs and a body divided into two segments.

So popular was the monster Lake Tawakoni spider web phenomenon that it ran as the lead story in the Nation section of the Aug. 31 New York Times, and was the newspaper’s most e-mailed article that day. The nightmarish quality of the story prompted satirical takes on several Internet Web sites and led to national coverage on Fox News, the Discovery Channel, CNN and other networks. Quinn termed the degree of news coverage “remarkable.”

Dr. Norman Horner, a retired dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, was on his way to the park mid-week to study the “not very common” phenomenon, when he received a call from park staff telling him that a heavy overnight rainstorm had made the trail impassable and knocked down much of the giant web.

“So far,” Horner said, “we have been informed of webs of this nature occurring in Florida, California, Canada, Italy, Ohio and now Texas. In all cases, they appear to have been produced by tetragnathids, but have other species associated with them.”

Superintendent Garde said Sept. 5 that the crowds coming to see the wondrous creation had slowed to a trickle, and that they were not being allowed to access the nature trail due to the sloppy conditions.

“It was fun, but we were really tired,” Garde said. “The spiders are great little guys. They put our park on the map.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A & M University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Texas A & M University. "Enormous Spider Web Found In Texas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070912145919.htm>.
Texas A & M University. (2007, September 13). Enormous Spider Web Found In Texas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070912145919.htm
Texas A & M University. "Enormous Spider Web Found In Texas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070912145919.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The New York Times has officially endorsed the legalization of marijuana, but why now, and to what end? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins