A different kind of worldwide web
Contemplating a trip to Texas? Been looking for an excuse greater than warm weather and dude ranches? Then set down your cowboy boots, pick up your childhood entomologist uniform (What, not everyone had one? Was it just me?), and set a course for Lake Tawakoni State Park to explore the mystery of its Giant Communal Spiderweb.
In August of 2007, on a lone trail-mowing expedition, Freddie Gowin, an employee of Texas Parks and Wildlife, happened upon the giant web that has been pulling scientist and spectator alike to the large state park near Dallas ever since.
At first glance, one imagines a spider large enough to battle Godzilla, but let’s leave the science fiction to Hollywood. Arachnologists originally believed that the web was spun by a group of social spiders, a veritable spider knitting circle (one can only assume that black widows enjoy spinning a good yarn). But further examination has led many to believe that the webs were spun independently, in a perfect storm of mass dispersal.
However it appeared, this web has the power to capture man and bug alike. Although most of the component webs appear to have been produced by tetragnathids, less than a month after its discovery 11 different spider families were found on it and over 3,000 human visitors spent Labor Day Weekend caught in the giant web.
This is not the only instance of such web-slinging (though it may be the most notable). Similar communal webs have been found in Canada, Florida, Ohio, Italy, and California, including one remarkable instance in a public park in Encino.
Arachnophobes and arachnophiles alike, I think we can all learn a thing or two about social networking and cooperation from these tiny weavers. Together, wolf spiders and jumping spiders, orb web weavers and tangle web weavers, and even the dread pirate/cannibal spider have created a thing, if not of great beauty, than of overwhelming proportions. RS