Trivia

Hard

Which Spider Weaves The Largest Webs In The World?

Darwin's Bark Spider
Gold Orb-Web Spiders
Orb Weavers
Giant Huntsman Spider
Darwin's bark spider, seen up close and on its web.
GalliasM/Wikimedia

Answer: Darwin’s Bark Spider

If the feeling of a spider web sticking on your face or hands is enough to send your heart racing, we’d strongly suggest that you avoid Madagascar at all costs. There you’ll find the largest spider webs in the world, courtesy of the not-so-large Darwin’s bark spider.

The diminutive little spiders, typically around 0.2 inches (males) to 0.8 inches (females) across the body in size and not much bigger when the legs are factored in, create the largest and strongest webs of any spider on Earth. The webs of Darwin’s bark spiders have been found with anchor lines spanning distances of up to 82 feet (often spanning streams and small rivers) and large enough to blanket the side of a truck (it’s not unusual to find their webs spread over 25 square feet or more).

Not only are the Darwin’s bark spiders’ orb webs larger than any other on Earth—they’re incredibly strong. Analysis of their spider silk has demonstrated that it has the highest tensile strength of any known spider silk (over ten times tougher than a similarly-sized piece of Kevlar). Given the sheer size and strength of their webs, it would be easy to imagine the little guys were laying traps for bats, birds, and other sizable prey, but scientists have yet to observe them capturing and subduing anything beyond typical insect cuisine with their enormous webs.

The spider derives its name from two sources. First, it was discovered in Madagascar just before the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s publication of his book The Origin of Species (and, in fact, the official description of the new spider was prepared and submitted on the exact anniversary of publication). Naming a spider with such a far reaching web after a scientist with such a far reaching impact on the world is quite fitting. The second portion of the spider’s name is derived from its appearance: the spider’s exoskeleton has a bark-like camouflage covering it.

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