This is why I’m never setting foot in Madagascar. The island contains a small spider—nothing remarkable to look at. The spider spins webs that span entire lakes. Those webs are stronger than any other form of spider silk.
The Darwin’s Bark spider, Caerostris darwini, was only known to people outside Madagascar in 2009. That was the year the rest of the world’s luck ran out, and we had to know that spiders, under the right conditions could learn to spin webs 82 feet long. Being canny predators, they made sure to put them in places no animal could avoid—stretching across lakes and rivers. And just to complete the horror, they make it out of the second toughest biological substance in the world. To get any tougher, and you have to go to teeth—not our teeth, only limpet teeth. This spider’s silk is proportionally tougher than kevlar, and is the second toughest substance known.
Biologists were surprised to see the breadth of the webs, especially since swimming across a lake or river wasn’t an option for the spider. They found the spider constructs the web in a way no other spider does. According to one study:
First, the spiders release unusually large amounts of bridging silk into the air, which is then carried downwind, across the water body, establishing bridge lines. Second, the spiders perform almost no web site exploration. Third, they construct the orb capture area below the initial bridge line. In contrast to all known orb-weavers, the web hub is therefore not part of the initial bridge line but is instead built de novo.
So if you’re in Madagascar, you could be taking a dip and get hit in the face with a bit of web that a spider two bus lengths away from you decided to throw in your face. There’s no way to defend against that.
Top Image: GalliasM. Second Image: Ingi Agnarsson, Matjaž Kuntner, Todd A. Blackledge