Little travelers for enormous distances.

For many centuries, scientists all over the world were considering an unintelligible substance which appears in the air at autumn time. Frequently their theories were very strange. One claimed that this is the way pines sweat, others called it “a woolen rain”, another scientist supposed it was dew turning into a vapor. And only Aristotle, many years before these dreamers, rightly defined this substance as just a simple spider’s web. However he hadn’t realized why it spread in the air so much.

The answer to this question was found only in the middle of the 20th century. Some types of the spider species Thomisidae (more commonly known as the “crab spider”) make these silver rugs not only for hunting flies, but for movement too.

Most of these creatures are born in the period known as “Indian summer” (the end of September – the beginning of October). They climb up high on something natural and start spinning their “magic carpet”. When their flying-craft is ready, the spider climbs onto it and waits. When the convective stream of air lifts the spider’s web up, the spider bites through the thread and starts on a further journey. It’s interesting that spiders can control their webs by deliberately moving the centre of gravity and stretching the threads – in this way they can guide it up and down. In this unusual way, they can cover tens of thousands of kilometers. Their natural habitat is nearly the whole of the Earth. Scientists have noticed them even in the stratosphere.

But what is the main goal of such distant journeys, you may ask? The answer is simple: these creatures can’t even exist side by side without killing themselves struggling for food. That’s why nature decided to settle them far from each other.

Text: Andrey Sugakov-Romanov.  Photo: Richard Bradley, Andrey Sugakov-Romanov.  Translation: Margarita Maslova.

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