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Evolution of spider webs?

Evolution of spider webs?



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Web making seems like a fairly complex behavior built from a pretty strong material. So how exactly did it evolve? Do we have any clues about what kind of features/behaviors preceded web making and made it possible? Are there any examples of convergent evolution?


I kind of hate using Wikipedia as a reference, but this article offers a general overview of spider evolution… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_spiders

And this article mentions fungus gnats (and perhaps other species) as examples of convergent evolution… http://www.mapoflife.org/topics/topic_267_Silk-production-and-use-in-arthropods/

I can't remember with certainty, but I believe some jellyfish (and/or perhaps other marine invertebrates) have sticky tentacles that function somewhat similar to spider webs. In fact, some carnivorous plants have sticky structures that trap prey.


One of the comment to David's answer (which covers the history and reasons for spiderwebs in its two links) mentions a comparison between web patterns and molecular phylogeny. Not precisely that, but I found this article which opens up some interesting possibilities (I can delete this or turn it into a comment if you consider it too unrelated, please let me know).

  • Fernández, Hormiga & Giribet. 2014. Phylogenomic Analysis of Spiders Reveals Nonmonophyly of Orb Weavers. Current Biology.

Chopped summary:

Spiders constitute one of the most successful clades of terrestrial predators. Their extraordinary diversity, paralleled only by some insects and mites, is often attributed to the use of silk, and, in one of the largest lineages, to stereotyped behaviors for building foraging webs of remarkable biomechanical properties. (… ) Prior molecular efforts have focused on a handful of genes but have provided little resolution to key questions such as the origin of the orb weavers. We apply a next-generation sequencing approach to resolve spider phylogeny, examining the relationships among its major lineages. (… ) These results imply independent origins for the two types of orb webs (cribellate and ecribellate) or a much more ancestral origin of the orb web with subsequent loss in the so-called RTA clade.

When comparing molecular family trees, orb weaving araeonoids and deinopoids seem to be more distantly related than thought.

That discovery leaves two possible explanations for the evolution of the spider web: It either emerged much earlier than previously expected and was later abandoned by some species (most believe so). Or, web-spinning and the capacity to spin silk evolved multiple times. Both theories are viable, they just need to catch more spider families to prove which one fits better.


Maybe this answer to another post is helpful for you as well https://mathoverflow.net/a/372105/161287 . It gives interesting perspective on the various roles and purposes of spider webs (with interesting links), and it looks at spider webs from a conceptual point of view.


A New Spider Family Tree Tries to Untangle the Evolution of Webs

Scientists have fiercely debated the origins of the orb-style web. A new study challenges the idea that all spiders who make this web had a common ancestor.

A garden orb-weaver spider near Rio Negro, Brazil. Researchers have drawn a new tree of spider evolution to determine whether orb web-weaving came from a common ancestor or if it evolved more than once. Credit. Gustavo Hormiga

Spider webs present an intriguing challenge to evolutionary biologists.

These finely honed death traps come in many forms, from the trampoline-like construction of the sheet web spider, to the instantly recognizable filigree of the orb weaver. Orb-style webs are made by diverse spiders, however, and there are two different types, one that’s sticky and one that’s not. Ever since biologists began to sort out how tens of thousands of different species of spiders are related to one another, sketching a very large, many-legged family tree, they have wondered: Did spiders evolve to spin the orb web only once? Or multiple times?

It’s an important distinction, and one that scientists who study the evolution of spiders have fiercely debated.

Image

If it evolved only once, then all those who weave it today are descended from a single, common ancestor. But there could have been a very different path of evolution in which different spider lineages independently arrived at the design. A new study published Thursday in Current Biology supports this hypothesis for spider and web evolution, using genetic data from 159 spider species to draw a new family tree containing multiple distinct branches of orb-weaving spiders.

In the late 1980s and early 90s, scientists believed this question was satisfactorily answered, said Gustavo Hormiga, a professor at George Washington University and an author of the paper. Before evolutionary biologists were using DNA sequencing regularly, the consensus was that the two groups that make different versions of the orb web had a common orb-weaving ancestor.

DNA has complicated that picture, however. In the last few years, Dr. Hormiga’s lab and others have built detailed family trees by sequencing small sections of spiders’ DNA. In these trees, spiders that have similar genetic markers are deemed more closely related to one another than to spiders whose markers are different. In order to have more points of comparison, the team behind the new paper used a more recently developed approach to compare approximately 2,500 genes.

The resulting spider tree shows a massive network of species whose ancestors began to branch away from each other hundreds of millions of years ago. Over here are the wolf spiders over there the builders of underground funnel webs, as well as the orb weavers and black widows. Because the researchers could draw on so many more genes and species than in previous studies, they are able to state the relationships among spiders with greater confidence than in the past, Dr. Hormiga said.

To use the tree to study the evolution of webs built to catch prey, the researchers assigned each species a status: This one made an orb web to hunt, that one made a horizontal web, this one didn’t build a web at all, and so on. Then they asked what the most logical way for those traits to have arisen, looking for the most likely route from ancestors with various different webs to those that spiders build today.

Dr. Hormiga and colleagues say based on this analysis that the ability to make orb webs must have arisen multiple times. On the tree, spiders that make sticky orb webs are all closely related, but the makers of non-sticky orb webs have an ancestor that didn’t use a web for hunting at all. Dr. Hormiga and colleagues write that the hypothesis that the orb web evolved once and was simply passed down “crumbles” under this evidence.

“It puts it on very solid ground that the orb web evolved more than once,” Dr. Hormiga said.

Not everyone agrees. Jason Bond, a professor at Auburn University who, with collaborators, has also published genealogies for spiders in recent years, says the tree itself is an admirable, solid piece of work, and rises above earlier efforts.

But he expressed doubts about the researchers’ conclusions. Dr. Bond said that because of the way the researchers categorized the data on web architecture, their analysis creates, among other things, the impression that the use of webs for hunting evolved independently more than 10 times among spiders. He said that seemed implausible, given the complexity of this particular way of spinning a web.

“I would say these authors have climbed pretty far out on to a limb,” he said. “It will be interesting to see if it holds.”


Arthropods (550 mya)

Arthropods were the first group of species to leave the oceans to colonize land. This occurred around 450 million years ago (mya), well before the existence of dinosaurs. The earliest arthropods were marine animals dating back to about 550 mya. They include the Spriggina (pictured) and the Parvancorina. The well-known trilobytes were also a type of arthropod.

Spriggina - one of the earliest arthropods.

Arthropods were preadapted for the transition to land having strong exoskeletons and (by 450 mya) rudimentary limbs for locomotion. They had an open circulatory system including a heart, and compound eyes utilizing thousands of photo-receptive units.

Those that took to land developed book lungs (from their gills) to filter oxygen from the air. These book lungs are still present in modern spiders and many related species. Indeed, arthropods later evolved into spiders, insects, centipedes, scorpions, mites, ticks, crabs, shrimp, and lobsters.


Why spiders are cloaking Gippsland with stunning webs after floods

Credit: Darren Carney

Stunning photographs of vast, ghostly spider webs blanketing the flood-affected region of Gippsland in Victoria have gone viral online, prompting many to muse on the wonder of nature.

But what's going on here? Why do spiders do this after floods and does it happen everywhere?

The answer is: these webs have nothing to do with spiders trying to catch food. Spiders often use silk to move around and in this case are using long strands of web to escape from waterlogged soil.

This may seem unusual, but these are just native animals doing their thing. It's crucial you don't get out the insecticide and spray them. These spiders do important work managing pests, so by killing them off you would be increasing the risk that pests such as cockroaches and mosquitoes will get out of control.

Parts of #Gippsland are covered in #spider web. The little black dots are spiders. There is web as far as the eye can see. This is near Longford #Victoria thanks Carolyn Crossley for the video pic.twitter.com/wcAOGU9ZTu

— Mim Hook (@mim_cook) June 15, 2021

Using silk to move around

What you're seeing online, or in person if you live locally, is an amazing natural phenomena but it's not really very complicated.

We are constantly surrounded by spiders, but we don't usually see them. They are hiding in the leaf litter and in the soil.

When these flood events happen, they need evacuate quickly up out of holes they live in underground. They come out en masse and use their silk to help them do that.

When floods happen, spiders use silk to evacuate quickly. Credit: Darren Carney

You'll often see juvenile spiders let out a long strand of silk which is caught by the wind and lifted up. The web catches onto another object such as a tree and allows the spider to climb up.

That's how baby spiders (spiderlings!) disperse when they emerge from their egg sacs—it's called ballooning. They have to disperse as quickly as possible because they are highly cannibalistic so they need to move away from each other swiftly and find their own sites to hunt or build their webs.

That said, I doubt these webs are from baby spiders. It is more likely to be a huge number of adult spiders, of all different types, sizes and species. They're all just trying to escape the flood waters. These are definitely spiders you don't usually see above ground so they are out of their comfort zone, too.

This mass evacuation of spiders, and associated blankets of silk, is not a localised thing. It is seen in other parts of Australia and around the world after flooding.

It just goes to show how versatile spider silk can be. It's not just used for catching food, it's also used for locomotion and is even used by some spiders to lay a trail so they don't get lost.

The most important thing I need readers to know is that this is not anything to be worried about. The worst thing you could do is get out the insecticide and spray them.

These spiders are making a huge contribution to pest control and you would have major pest problems if you get rid of all the spiders. The spiders will disperse on their own very quickly. In general, spiders don't like being in close proximity to each other (or humans!) and they want to get back to their homes underground.

If you live in Gippsland, you probably don't even need to clear the webs away with a broom. There's no danger in doing so if you wish, but I am almost certain these webs will disperse on their own within days.

Until then, enjoy this natural spectacle. I wish I could come down to see them with my own eyes!

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


DISCUSSION

COMPARING WEBS AND BEHAVIOURAL HOMOLOGIES

The most interesting observation in our study is that the building process of theridiid webs is more organized than previously thought, particularly during the building of gumfooted lines. The interpretation of theridiid webs as ‘highly irregular’ or ‘tangle’ webs ( Hopfmann, 1935 Comstock, 1940 Levi & Levi, 1962 Szlep, 1965,, 1966 Shear, 1986,, 1994) might be due to authors describing the end product and not the behaviour.

Theridiid webs observed remained in place for extended periods, were expanded and repaired, but the spiders appeared to exhibit no regular pattern of web replacement. In contrast to most orb-webs, theridiid webs are constructed gradually and in segments over a period of many days and have a longer life span ( Carico, 1986 Eberhard, 1987 Opell, 1999).

Structure construction behaviour in theridiids is highly variable. Even the same spider employed variable behaviours to build successive webs. Such behavioural flexibility during later construction stages is unknown in orb-web builders except for some theridiosomatids ( Eberhard, 2001). Araneid orb-weavers like Araneus diadematus only perform highly variable behaviours during the first construction stage, leading to the proto-hub. Thereafter its behaviour becomes stereotyped and highly predictable ( Zschokke, 1996). After SSt construction, except for A. tesselata, C. blandum and Tidarren spp., all theridiids observed by us added viscid elements to the structure. The building of gumfooted lines in Achaearanea and Latrodectus ( Lamoral, 1968) constitutes a unique stereotyped behaviour or a unique motor pattern and is most probably homologous for Theridioids (Theridiidae + Nesticidae, clade 9, sensu Griswold et al., 1998).

The structure constructed by A. tepidariorum consisted of an irregular, three-dimensional retreat connected to the surroundings with strong anchor lines. In comparison, S. triangulosa starts with an initial structure of radiating threads (RT) extending from a peripheral point to the substrate (Benjamin & Zschokke, unpublished data). Similarly, Latrodectus initially lays several RT, extending out of its retreat towards surrounding objects ( Szlep, 1965 Lamoral, 1968). Although they are not arranged in geometrically regular arrays, almost all of them primarily originate from a single peripheral point.

Achaearanea tepidariorum and A. lunata (Benjamin & Zschokke, unpublished data) started to build GF from more or less the central section of the web. During construction, the spider moved from the retreat to the periphery. The GF construction behaviour of Latrodectus and Steatoda (Benjamin & Zschokke, unpublished data) is different. They start from the peripheral retreat, move along a structural thread, then drop down at regular intervals to attach the thread to the lower substrate, coating the lowest part of the thread with viscid silk on returning.

Theridion sisyphium and T. varians built a structure extending sideways from a peripheral retreat all attachments were made to the sides of the box and not to SB. During the construction of viscid silk lines, the spider attached them to SSt at both ends, instead of one end each to SSt and SB as in A. tepidariorum and L. geometricus. This behaviour might be unique for Theridion and related genera. Achaearanea, Latrodectus and Steatoda never attached GFs to existing SSt at both ends. However, Theridion viscid silk lines are built in bouts, as are GFs in other Theridiidae. The SSt building behaviour of T. sisyphium and T. varians differed from that of A. tepidariorum. Theridion rarely dropped down to SB during later stages, instead it attached the threads to the peripheral sides of the box or to existing SSt. Judging from the completed webs, C. cambridgei might have constructed viscid elements in the same manner.

In the absence of a phylogeny, the interpretation of the evolution of the diverse range of webs and their corresponding behaviours is somewhat arbitrary. Additionally, most genera might not be monophyletic ( Forster et al., 1990). Nevertheless, it is appropriate to discuss implications of the described behavioural characters on the theridiid interrelationship hypotheses proposed by Levi & Levi (1962) and Forster et al. (1990).

The webs and construction behaviours of Latrodectus and Steatoda indicate a close relationship. Forster et al. (1990) considered Latrodectus, together with Anelosimus, Enoplognatha, and Steatoda, to be basal theridiids because of the presence of a colulus. Thus, we might consider the behaviour of Latrodectus and Steatoda to be the primitive condition in theridiids.

Theridula has a web with long viscid lines that help capture flying prey ( Stowe, 1985). Anelosimus constructs a three-dimensional web without viscid elements a structure (SSt) wrapped around branches (Eberhard pers. comm. Foelix, 1996: fig. 209 Levi, 1967 Tietjen, 1986: fig. 2). Anelosimus jucundus (O. P.-Cambridge, 1896) does not build gumfooted lines or a sheet similar to that of Coleosoma or A. tesselata ( Fig. 6G Nentwig & Christenson, 1986: fig. 2).

Coleosoma was placed close to Theridion because of the absence of a colulus ( Levi & Levi, 1962). Based on the presence of a hoodlike paracymbium, Anelosimus, Chrosiothes, Chrysso, Coleosoma, Helvibis, Nesticodes, Rugathodes, Spintharus, Tekellina, Theridula, Thwaitesia and Thymoites are considered to form a monophyletic group ( Forster et al., 1990). The genera Anelosimus, Chrysso, Coleosoma and Theridion do not build gumfooted lines. Achaearanea tesselata (Keyserling, 1884) constructs a ‘sheet-web’ identical to that of C. blandum ( Fig. 6C Eberhard, 1972). However, the relationships of A. tesselata to Coleosoma are unclear. Most probably A. tesselata is misplaced in Achaearanea (Achaearanea might be polyphyletic Forster et al., 1990).

The placement of Tidarren has been enigmatic to date ( Knoflach & van Harten, 2000). The webs of Tidarren sisyphoides (Walckenaer, 1842) and Tidarren haemorrhoidale (Bertkau, 1880) contain no gumfooted lines or viscid elements ( Fig. 6F Benjamin, unpublished data). We suggest that Tidarren might be related to A. tesselata and Coleosoma.

Chrysso was originally defined for an assemblage of American species ( Levi, 1955, 1962). The subsequent inclusion of Asian species might have rendered the genus polyphyletic. Our study of webs of Chrysso (American species) and Theridion suggest that Levi (1955, 1962) might have been correct in postulating that they are related.

Chrosiothes, Episinus and Spintharus have unique web architecture ( Bristowe, 1958 Stowe, 1985 Forster et al., 1990 Roberts, 1995). The web of Episinus angulatus (Blackwall, 1836) consists of two gumfooted lines held by L1 and L2. The spider hangs upside down on a few SSt threads, facing the substrate ( Holm, 1938 Roberts, 1995: 261). However, it is not clear whether this derived web architecture defines a monophyletic group ( Forster et al., 1990).

Derived webs are also known from Argyrodes, Pholcomma and Phoroncidia. Argyrodes species make webs consisting of a few non-viscid lines strung across vegetation, intended for other spiders wandering inadvertently onto the web ( Eberhard, 1979 Stowe, 1985). Some do not construct webs at all, and are kleptoparasitic. Pholcomma appears to construct a unique derived web described in detail by Holm (1938) and Jones (1992). Phoroncidia constructs webs with 1–3 GF the spider sits on a twig with L1 holding a SSt thread ( Marples, 1955 Eberhard, 1981).

In summary, as a result of our survey of theridiid webs (Theridiidae excluding Hadrotarsinae, which are not known to build webs), we recognize four major web types, with corresponding behaviours: Types 1 and 2 which have gumfooted lines and Types 3 and 4 which do not, but which have (Type 3) or do not have (Type 4) viscid elements in their webs. Type 1 is an Achaearanea-type web with a central retreat ( Fig. 8A Stowe, 1985: fig. 3 Griswold et al., 1998: fig. 2a, b). Type 2 is a Latrodectus-type web with a peripheral retreat ( Fig. 8B Wiehle, 1937: fig. 2). Type 3 is a Theridion-type web with viscid elements ( Fig. 8C Wiehle, 1937: fig. 3) and Type 4 a Coleosoma-type web without viscid elements but with a sheet and KN structure ( Fig. 8D). However, a phylogenetic analysis that takes into account all the available data is required to establish whether these behavioural types generally define natural groups.

Schematic representation of theridiid webs (not to scale): A, Achaearanea-type web with a central retreat. B, Latrodectus-web with a peripheral retreat. C, Theridion-type web with viscid elements. D, Coleosoma-type without viscid elements but with a sheet and KN structure.


Contents

When spiders moved from the water to the land in the Early Devonian period, they started making silk to protect their bodies and their eggs. [3] [5] Spiders gradually started using silk for hunting purposes, first as guide lines and signal lines, then as ground or bush webs, and eventually as the aerial webs that are familiar today. [6]

Spiders produce silk from their spinneret glands located at the tip of their abdomen. Each gland produces a thread for a special purpose – for example a trailed safety line, sticky silk for trapping prey or fine silk for wrapping it. Spiders use different gland types to produce different silks, and some spiders are capable of producing up to eight different silks during their lifetime. [7]

Most spiders have three pairs of spinnerets, each having its own function – there are also spiders with just one pair and others with as many as four pairs.

Webs allow a spider to catch prey without having to expend energy by running it down, making it an efficient method of gathering food. However these energy savings are somewhat offset by the fact that constructing the web is in itself energetically costly, due to the large amount of protein required in the form of silk. In addition, after a time the silk will lose its stickiness and thus become inefficient at capturing prey. It is common for spiders to eat their own web daily to recoup some of the energy used in spinning. Through ingestion and digestion, the silk proteins are thus recycled.

There are a few types of spider webs found in the wild, and many spiders are classified by the webs they weave. Different types of spider webs include:

  • Spiral orb webs, associated primarily with the family Araneidae, as well as Tetragnathidae and Uloboridae[8]
  • Tangle webs or cobwebs, associated with the family Theridiidae
  • Funnel webs, with associations divided into primitive and modern
  • Tubular webs, which run up the bases of trees or along the ground
  • Sheet webs

Several different types of silk may be used in web construction, including a "sticky" capture silk and "fluffy" capture silk, depending on the type of spider. Webs may be in a vertical plane (most orb webs), a horizontal plane (sheet webs), or at any angle in between. It is hypothesized that these types of aerial webs co-evolved with the evolution of winged insects. As insects are spiders' main prey, it is likely that they would impose strong selectional forces on the foraging behavior of spiders. [3] [9] Most commonly found in the sheet-web spider families, some webs will have loose, irregular tangles of silk above them. These tangled obstacle courses serve to disorient and knock down flying insects, making them more vulnerable to being trapped on the web below. They may also help to protect the spider from predators such as birds and wasps. [10] It is reported that several Nephila pilipes individuals can collectively construct an aggregated web system to defend birds predation from all directions. [11]

Orb web construction Edit

Most orb weavers construct webs in a vertical plane, although there are exceptions, such as Uloborus diversus, which builds a horizontal web. [12] During the process of making an orb web, the spider will use its own body for measurements. There is variation in web construction among orb-weaving spiders, in particular, the species Zygiella x-notata is known for its characteristic missing sector web crossed by a single signal thread. [13]

Many webs span gaps between objects which the spider could not cross by crawling. This is done by first producing a fine adhesive thread to drift on a faint breeze across a gap. When it sticks to a surface at the far end, the spider feels the change in the vibration. The spider reels in and tightens the first strand, then carefully walks along it and strengthens it with a second thread. This process is repeated until the thread is strong enough to support the rest of the web.

After strengthening the first thread, the spider continues to make a Y-shaped netting. The first three radials of the web are now constructed. More radials are added, making sure that the distance between each radial and the next is small enough to cross. This means that the number of radials in a web directly depends on the size of the spider plus the size of the web. It is common for a web to be about 20 times the size of the spider building it.

After the radials are complete, the spider fortifies the center of the web with about five circular threads. It makes a spiral of non-sticky, widely spaced threads to enable it to move easily around its own web during construction, working from the inside outward. Then, beginning from the outside and moving inward, the spider methodically replaces this spiral with a more closely spaced one made of adhesive threads. It uses the initial radiating lines as well as the non-sticky spirals as guide lines. The spaces between each spiral and the next are directly proportional to the distance from the tip of its back legs to its spinners. This is one way the spider uses its own body as a measuring/spacing device. While the sticky spirals are formed, the non-adhesive spirals are removed as there is no need for them any more.

After the spider has completed its web, it chews off the initial three center spiral threads then sits and waits. If the web is broken without any structural damage during the construction, the spider does not make any initial attempts to rectify the problem.

The spider, after spinning its web, then waits on or near the web for a prey animal to become trapped. The spider senses the impact and struggle of a prey animal by vibrations transmitted through the web. A spider positioned in the middle of the web makes for a highly visible prey for birds and other predators, even without web decorations many day-hunting orb-web spinners reduce this risk by hiding at the edge of the web with one foot on a signal line from the hub or by appearing to be inedible or unappetizing.

Spiders do not usually adhere to their own webs, because they are able to spin both sticky and non-sticky types of silk, and are careful to travel across only non-sticky portions of the web. However, they are not immune to their own glue. Some of the strands of the web are sticky, and others are not. For example, if a spider has chosen to wait along the outer edges of its web, it may spin a non-sticky prey or signal line to the web hub to monitor web movement. However, in the course of spinning sticky strands, spiders have to touch these sticky strands. They do this without sticking by using careful movements, dense hairs and nonstick coatings on their feet to prevent adhesion. [14]


Researchers make breakthrough discovery about evolution of spiders and their webs

A group of Auburn researchers has published a study that could overturn some long-held paradigms regarding spider web evolution.

Because of similarities in behaviors associated with web construction and the complicated nature of the webs, it has long been thought that all orb-weaving spiders shared a common ancestor. The study shows that spiders that weave orb-shaped webs are not all closely related and that the orb web was likely not the pinnacle of web evolution.

"Conversely, our data shows that rather than being highly derived, or evolved much later in spider evolutionary history, the orb web is actually quite primitive and evolved earlier than previously thought," said Jason Bond, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and director of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, who led the study. "All spiders that make orb webs are not necessarily closely related. Based on our data, there are two unrelated lineages that make orb webs."

The data concluded that the classical orb web emerged in the Lower Jurassic more than 187 million years ago.

"The vast majority of spider diversity comes from an ancestor that spun an orb web however, most of those lineages subsequently abandoned this web type in favor of other web architectures or altogether different strategies for capturing prey," said Bond.

The study, "Phylogenomics Resolves a Spider Phylogeny and Rejects a Prevailing Paradigm for Orb Web Evolution," is based on more than 300 genes sampled from 33 families of spiders to determine evolutionary, or phylogenetic, relationships.

It was conducted in collaboration with graduate students Nicole Garrison, Chris Hamilton and Rebecca Godwin, and students and faculty at Auburn University, San Diego State University and the University of Vermont.

"We are just one of a number of labs here in the Department of Biological Sciences that, as a consequence of some tremendous resources here at Auburn University, have been able to take advantage of the latest advances in DNA and RNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatics," said Bond. "Computational resources like the new CASIC high performance computing cluster and the HiSeq platform for next generation sequencing in the Auburn University Genomics and Sequencing Lab made this latest study possible."


6 Types Of Spider Webs

There are six main types of spider webs. By “main types”, we mean webs that spiders use to live and store food in, hide in, and hunt with.

Some of these webs are a lot more common than others, and some are a bit more loosely-defined.

1. Orb Web

Orb spider web between flowers

Description – This is an extremely common type of spider web, and one that most people think of when they picture a spider web. It’s estimated that these webs came to be around 100 million years ago when flying insects started to evolve.

This web is comprised of a very strong external frame that’s joined in the center to create spokes. These spokes are then joined together with a spiraling elastic thread to create a large surface area for capturing prey.

Some orb webs have additional designs outside of the standard spokes and spirals, but their purpose is unknown. It’s inferred that these flourishes are either used to better disguise the web, attract prey, or both.

How it works – The main frame of this web, the outer border and inner spokes, is constructed with elastic, sticky thread and droplets that are used to capture prey with ease.

These webs are constructed vertically in areas that get significant flying insect traffic. The most effective webs can capture upwards of 250 insects per day!

Spiders – These webs are primarily associated with the family Araneidae, or orb-weaver spiders. These spiders are primarily found outside, and many genus and species within it are non-threatening in terms of their venom.

2. Tangle Web / Cobweb

Cobweb in old barn

Description – Cobwebs are very commonly seen indoors in areas that don’t get much traffic, especially in corners. However, they’re not to be confused with collections of dust/dirt that can also be found in corners.

While they appear messy and disorganized, they’re actually created that way. They’re frequently anchored to the top of a structure and have many different threads hanging down off of it.

These webs commonly collect a lot of dust and dirt, adding to their dirty appearance.

How it works – The convoluted design of cobwebs is what makes them so effective. There are sticky droplets at the end of the dangling strings that sit right at floor level, acting as a snare.

When an insects walks across this thread and breaks it, it’s simultaneously stuck and lifted up into the web by the contracting thread. Once it reaches the web, it’s quickly subdued by the spider.

Spiders – Primarily made by spiders in the Theriidae family. This family includes very common and harmless house spiders, but it also includes very venomous spiders like the black widow.

3. Funnel Web

Funnel spider web in bush

Description – The aptly-named funnel web is, as you could guess, shaped like a funnel. Expanses of thread span over a variety of distances, and they meet in the middle where they form a cylindrical hole.

This hole is where the funnel-weaver spider hides out and reaps some of the great benefits of this web design.

How it works – There are several interesting perks of this web design. First and foremost, it offers great protection for its creator, as the spider can hide in the difficult-to-access center.

Additionally, it’s the perfect ambush structure. Insects walk across the mat-like web, get tangled up, and are then subdued by the spider that quickly rushes out of its hole when it senses vibration.

Spiders – Agelenidae spiders, or funnel-weaver spiders, construct these webs. This isn’t to be confused with funnel-web spiders — creatures that are considered some of the most dangerous spiders in existence!

Many Agelenidae spiders are entirely harmless, such as the common Grass Spider. They also tend to be very fast and agile so that they can quickly subdue their tangled prey. They’re also quite photosensitive.

4. Sheet Web

Sheet spider web over small plant

Description – These interesting webs take the classic web design and turn it horizontally. You can find these hammock-like webs draped over grass, bushes, or other structures.

Some of these webs lay very flat over grass, while others are dome-shaped.

How it works – The spiders that construct these webs simply hang upside-down from them and wait to ambush any insects that walk below. Flying insects often hit the threads and fall down to the spider.

While these webs are frequently damaged, they tend to be permanent structures unlike most other spider webs. Any damage is quickly patched up before it gets too bad.

Spiders – This type of web is associated with the Linyphiidae family. This is the second largest family of spiders and contains extremely small species with most posing no threat to humans.

5. Triangle Web

Triangle spider web indoors

Description – Triangle webs are, just as their name suggests, built in the shape of a triangle in a vertical fashion. There are typically four main anchor points, with one on one side and three on the other.

Three strands of silk are connected with thread to create a very simple web.

How it works – While these webs are unique in their design, they’re even more unique in their function. The thread used for these webs is fuzzy and actually entangles and smothers insects.

Spiders – The Uloboridae family of spiders is associated with this type of web. They use such an interesting hunting strategy because they’re the only family that doesn’t possess venom glands.

Thus, the smothering ability of the web makes up for the lack of an effective bite from these spiders.

That lack of venom also means that these spiders are not threatening in the least.

6. Mesh Web

Mesh spider web

Description – Mesh webs are essentially cobwebs but located outside. They could actually be considered cobwebs, but they’re defined differently for clarity’s sake.

They aren’t entirely similar to cobwebs, though. Mesh webs are a bit more orderly in construction, and they’re often built under leaves and rocks or in grassy fields.

How it works – The function of these webs is very similar to cobwebs. They possess snare threads, and also work to entangle prey that touches the web.

Spiders – The Dictynidae family is responsible for mesh webs. This is a unique family of spiders that isn’t discussed much but possesses over 560 species.


Spiders show the creative genius of God

Likewise, I can’t say that I liked the big black one that ran into the pile of papers behind my computer not too long ago, which kept surfacing in different parts of our house for a few days. Nevertheless, they do fascinate me to a great extent, and I do have a great appreciation of the creative genius that our Creator used to design these creatures. I also appreciate the many wonderful ways that spiders have of making evolution look stupid.

Spiders are able to make seven different types of webs, which they use for different purposes, such as for catching prey, for walking on, for anchor points, for wrapping prey, and for other functions. It is ridiculous to suggest that a creature could randomly develop the irreducibly complex apparatuses to make and eject one type of webbing, but to make seven types is mind-boggling. An irreducibly complex apparatus is something that could not operate if even one of its components were missing. The chances of something of this nature to appear by accident with all of its necessary parts intact are essentially zero.

This amazing web material is five times stronger than steel thread, but it will stretch to over four times its length without breaking. It has been used to make bulletproof vests, it can be used to close bleeding wounds, and scientists have produced nothing with which it can be compared. Furthermore, spiders have an amazing range of talents that for which they utilize their webs. Making a regular spider web is amazing enough. Many spiders make a complex web every day and eat it later as it starts to wear, after which they make a new web. How do they know how to produce such elaborate structures without instruction? It does not stop there. Harun Yahya has provided the following astonishing examples of how spiders use their webs and camouflage for hunting.


Spider webs and their electrostatic charges

Spiders webs are beginning to weave an intriguing new story of how they ensnare their prey. Capture of flying and crawling fodder may not just be a lucky accident &ndash for the spider &ndash but the result of an electrostatic interaction between web and insect, according to a recent study conducted by University of California, Berkeley biologists and published in the journal, “Scientific Reports.”

What are electrostatic charges? A simple explanation is that electrostatics encompass the buildup of an electrical charge on the surface of objects in reaction to contact with other surfaces. If you remove a cap from your head and your hair stands straight up, that’s an example of electrostatics at work. The same is true when cellophane adheres to your hand after you unwrap a package. Or when a balloon sticks to a wall after you’ve rubbed it against your body.

New research indicates that spider webs may entrap prey by drawing them in as a result of electrostatic attraction. Some flying insects create an electric charge as they flutter their wings. These charged insects could then be drawn into and trapped by sticky, negatively charged spider web strands as they fly close by.

According to the study’s co-author, Victor Manuel Ortega-Jimenez, a UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow who typically studies hummingbird flight, and who made the initial observation, “Charged insects can produce a deformation of a spider web. Any insect that is flying very close to the spider web can be trapped by the electrostatic effect.”

Ortega-Jimenez first observed this occurrence when playing with his daughter using an electrostatically charged “magic wand” that induced small objects to rise. He also used the wand to charge up several insects. And when he brought it close to a spider web, the web changed shape in response.

“We were outside of our apartment, and we put the wand close to a giant spider web, and there was a strong attraction between the web and the wand,” he describes. “It kept on getting closer until the web touched the wand.”

The biologist was aware that honeybees’ flapping wings can produce an electrical charge of up to 200 volts, which may assist them when collecting pollen from negatively charged flowers. He knew studies had divulged that in response to prey, webs were capable of radically deforming. This piqued his interest as to whether or not spider webs could ensnare prey through electrostatic magnetism.

To test this possibility, Ortega-Jimenez and colleague, Campus Professor of Integrative Biology, Robert Dudley, collected webs of the common cross spider (also known as a garden spider) from the UC Berkeley campus. Under laboratory conditions, they studied how the spider webs reacted to objects containing an electrical charge.

They discovered that webs and positively charged objects were drawn to each other. Additionally, the spider web’s silk threads moved in an arc toward each other beneath a charged honeybee that was plummeting toward them, increasing the likelihood that the insect would become a victim of the sticky strands. A substantial change, the web’s deformation was approximately half the length of the insects.

“This is quite intriguing,” commented Markus Buehler, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology materials scientist who studies spider silk, but was not involved in this particular study. “The attraction pulls the insect to the web and enhances the likelihood that it is being caught in the web.”

Dudley, who has researched insect flight and was one of the chief researchers of the study, attests that any airborne object &ndash from tiny insects to helicopters &ndash receives a positive charge while flying, produced by friction with the air.

During their lab experiment, Ortega-Jimenez retrieved dead insects such as aphids, fruit flies, green bottle flies and honey bees, which were given a positive charge from an electrostatic generator and dropped onto a horizontally situated, neutrally charged spider web. Utilizing high-speed cameras, researchers witnessed the web bending toward the falling insect before the insect actually made contact with it.

“Using a high-speed camera, you can clearly see the spider web is deforming and touching the insect before it reaches the web,” confirms Ortega-Jimenez. Insects lacking a charge didn’t elicit this reaction. “You would expect that if the web is charged negatively, the attraction would increase.”

Ortega-Jimenez intends to carry out additional tests at Berkeley to ascertain whether this effect takes place in the wild, and to discover whether static charges on webs derive more dirt and pollen, and are therefore a primary reason why spiders rebuild their webs daily. He also theorizes that light, flexible spider silk may have evolved because it deforms much more easily, when faced with electrostatic charges, to assist in capturing prey. “Electrostatic charges are everywhere,” he says, “and we propose that this may have driven the evolution of specialized webs.”

Conversely, when insects devoid of a charge were dropped, the web did not bend toward the insect. According to Dudley, the web’s movement “enhances the likelihood of catching an insect. The web would stretch toward the insect &ndash which is very clever.”