What’s that, hovering over Explore the Wild? Is it some sort of strange experimental aircraft?
No, no, it’s a spider!
I’ve often encountered webs, or even single strands of spider silk, stretched across large distances such as a road, a path, or stream and wondered how the spider got the silk across the road, path or stream. Certainly, the spider didn’t attach the silk to one side, say to a tree, then walk down the trunk of the tree, through the grass, across the road and then up a tree on the other side of the road, all the time letting out more silk. Then, once on the other side, pull in the slack, secure the silk and high-wire across. No, there are way too many obstacles for the silk to get snagged on. And, in the case of a web or strand of silk across a stream, the spider would have to walk across a bridge, or swim, to accomplish such a feat.
This is how it’s done. The spider sits on a perch on one side of the road, plays out silk from its spinnerets to be carried off by the wind. Only a slight breeze is necessary to carry away the silk. The loose end of the silk floats through the air until it attaches to something, hopefully something on the other side of the road. Anyone who has walked through a spider’s web can attest to the silk’s stickiness, so anything that the silk comes in contact with may become the anchor for the far side of the web or high-wire.
If the spider is satisfied with whatever it is that the strand of silk has attached itself to, it pulls in the slack, probably eating that slack, and attaches the now shortened strand of silk to a permanent nearby anchor. The spider is now free to build a web, or in the case of our jumping spider, to high-wire across the path in Explore the Wild (jumping spiders don’t build circular webs like the orb weavers).
Our jumping spider looks to be a Canopy Jumping Spider (Phidippus otiosus), but I’m not certain. Canopy Spiders spend much of their time in trees. It’s silken thread had attached itself to a magnolia tree some twenty feet away from it’s starting point.
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!