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C. darwini web and female  (Source: Journal of Arachnology)
Caerostris darwini uses a silk twice as elastic as other web-weaving spiders

A spider called Caerostris darwini, which resides in the deep jungles of Madagascar, is now known for spinning the largest webs in the world. Not only that, but they also spin their webs using a type of silk that is consider the strongest biological material.

Igni Agnarsson, a zoologist from the University of Puerto Rico, along with Matjaz Kuntner, a biologist from the Slovenian Academy of Sciences, discovered C. darwini in 2008. It is also called Darwin's bark spider, and is one-inch wide. This spider is capable of covering 30-square-foot areas, and hangs midair from 80-foot-long anchor lines. 

C. darwini builds these massive webs in the airspace above rivers and streams. This is odd because no other spider in these areas uses the air column above rivers and streams the way C. darwini's do. This practice of utilizing this unique area evolved from the C. darwini's migration to Madagascar's rivers.  

The size of these webs leads to "enormous structural stresses" that is made much worse by trapped prey trying to escape from the web when caught. The thick strands of silk must absorb kinetic energy before it breaks. Even with these structural stresses, Agnarsson notes that these silk webs are 10 times better than Kevlar, which is a fiber material that draws its strength from its weave. 

C. darwini's silk, which is twice as elastic as any silk from "other web-weaving spiders," is the toughest biological substance because of this elasticity. The strength of these silk webs helps provide large amounts of food, catching dozens of insects at a time. The web is also capable of catching bats and birds

There are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the C. darwini and its web, such as the molecular underpinnings of the webs elasticity, how exactly the webs are built, and how these small spiders maintain these enormous webs. Agnarsson and Kuntner plan to study these questions further. 

This study was published in PLoS One.




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