A bizarre-looking web structure has been found in the Peruvian Amazon, and apparently nobody knows what it is, not even scientists.
The strange formation resembles a tiny spire surrounded by a webby picket fence and is about 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) wide. [Read full story]
Underside of tarp
Georgia Tech graduate student Troy Alexander first spotted one of these on the underside of a tarp near the Tambopata Research Center in the Peruvian Amazon. At first he thought it might have been an aborted moth cocoon, he wrote on Reddit. But then he found several more, all of which looked quite similar.
So far, Redditors and others have guessed that it could be some kind of moth cocoon, an intricate defense for spider eggs, or even the fruiting body of some type of fungus.
Web Made By What?
"I have no idea what animal made that," Norman Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, told LiveScience.
A Google Maps view of the Amazon rainforest.
f whatever produces this structure turns out to be a new species, it should come as no surprise — the world's rain forests are expected to perhaps contain millions of new species of arthropods (a group of animals with hard exoskeletons, which includes spiders and insects), according to various scientific estimates.
The quirky web structure isn't the Peruvian Amazon's only oddity. Deep in the rain forest lurk a trove of strange creatures and sights, including spiders that make large spider-shaped decoys in their webs (shown here), which may serve as defense mechanisms to distract or confuse predators.
Also hiding out in the Peruvian Amazon is the cocoon of the urodid moth. Inside the delicate mesh of a basketlike web, a young urodid moth larva waits to grow to maturity.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.