Scientists finally solve the mystery of these rainforest structures

A few months ago, eye-grabbing images of tiny web-like structures baffled etymologists everywhere because they had no idea who made them. However, Wired recently followed a team of scientists down to the Amazonian rainforest, and the mystery is finally solved. Sort of.

The research team observed these tiny structures for days before three eggs hatched and out ran—you guessed it—little baby spiders. Of course, pretty much everybody suspected it was spiders all along. The only problem now is that they have no idea what kind of spiders they are. The one spiderling they managed to capture is orange and a little chubby, but once it matures, they hope to know more about how these amazing little structures are made. [Wired]


All images by Troy Alexander

Nobody Knows What Built These Weird Little Web Structures

For some baffling reason, a bunch of tiny, fence-like web structures keep showing up in the Peruvian jungle. Measuring about two centimeters across and delicately constructed, they're beautiful in a way. And since scientists have no idea how they got there, they're also totally mysterious.

Georgia Tech grad student Troy Alexander first spotted the strangle little structures on the underside of a blue tarp three months ago. Three more later showed up on tree trunks but offered no clues about what built them. They were all found on the same small island off Peru's coast*, making it entirely possible that an isolated, never-before-seen species of spider or insect was the architect. But frankly, scientists just don't know what made it or what it's for. Not even Reddit can figure it out.


Wired talked to entomologists and arachnologists alike, all of whom were stumped by the picket fence structure. One insect expert summed up the sentiment well. "We are all guessing," Gwen Pearson told Wired. "We have no freakin' clue. And that's my expert opinion."

Comforting, right? Truth be told, a few different kinds of spiders and insects make weird structures, so we can probably rule out aliens. Pearson says that the consensus among scientists right now is that whatever built the structure comes from the Bucculatricidea moth family, which is known to build similar structures to protect their cocoons. Pearseon personally believes it was actually built by a member of the Urodidae family, another moth family that builds baskets for their cocoons. Like Pearson said, though, nobody has a clue. Do you? Let us know your theories in the comments. [This Is Colossal via Wired Science]

* Update: Troy Alexander reached out to clarify where exactly these weird structures are being seen. Alexander explained:

I see how this impression could be drawn by reading the article on Wired about this, but in fact they were all found on a forested sandbar island in the Tambopata River in the Amazon Rainforest... in fact, the island ceases to be an island when the river is low enough, so they're not really that isolated. Still, the Tambopata research center was the site of discovery of the spider that makes a fake decoy spider in its web, so the "new species" idea is entirely possible.


Images via @TroySAlexander