It's easy to think of old age as a uniquely human phenomenon, and there's a certain amount of truth to that - most species die before they can experience the physical or mental deterioration often associated with growing older.

That's why the European house spider Zygiella x-notata is so interesting. In its youth, it weaves almost perfect webs, full of intricate patterns and exact angles, like in the web on the left. That web was spun by a 17-day-old spider, whereas the one on the right was spun by a spider well into its old age: a whopping 188 days old.

As you can see, it's much more sloppily constructed, and University of Glasgow biologists believe that's in part due to the breakdown of the spider's central nervous system. The researchers hope that the spider's breakdown in weaving skill will in turn help us better understand how aging affects humans.


Via ScienceNOW. Image by Mylene Anotaux.