The Mystery of Silkhenge

If you have no idea what Silkhenge is, here’s a video:

It’s a curious ring of spider silk, with silk fenceposts, and then in the center, an egg sac with a silk spike coming off the top. It’s just weird, especially since it’s such an elaborate structure to house only a handful of spider eggs. It’s a lot of effort for a small reward. All we know is what the babies look like, no adults, and no observations of how it is constructed. Clearly, More Research is Needed.

The same people went back a few years later and found more examples, still no adults.

They’ve also been seen in Peru.

Do I need an excuse to visit Ecuador again? Will this do? (All exotic travel is pending the resolution of the pandemic, of course.)


  1. stroppy says

    This is very cool.

    When I first saw it, I thought maybe it was like one of those slow-motion things where a water droplet falls into a puddle.

    Need more coffee. I seem to be having trouble making out what I’m looking at this morning.

  2. stroppy says

    I’ll take a stab at it. The fence is protective, and the middle spike for the spiderlings to climb up and catch a breeze out.

    Speaking of aliens, it does seem a little like something from science fiction; Stanislaw Lem maybe?

  3. gijoel says

    It’s not a henge. It doesn’t have a ditch around the fence with another ditch inside it. GAH!!

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Stroppy @ 4
    The remains of a ‘symmetriad’ after the water has evaporated?
    Or a bioconstruct antenna created by nanobots, like those greasy devices in Cronenberg’s film ExistenZ ?

  5. aronymous says

    So they don’t (or didn’t) have an adult. I have an obvious question. Why don’t they hatch the eggs in a suitable container and watch them grow? I know of a mad scientist at UMN Morris…
    I vote for the fence keeping predators out. It probably couldn’t keep the spiderlings in unless it was parallel to the ground, and residing on a leaf and staying horizontal may be difficult. However, the fence wouldn’t stop a bird.

  6. davidc1 says

    @2 Yes,it reminded me of those high speed photos that MIT did in the 1940’s,in colour as well.
    PS,I may be wrong about the years,or if MIT did them,the only thing I am certain of is that they are in colour.
    Well they have young spiders,so they will soon know what the adults look like.
    What it needs is a tiny sign saying Baby spiders,please keep off.

  7. stroppy says

    Is there anything about the threads on the spire that would serve as guides to lead spiderlings upward? I’m assuming the nests are on the upsides of leaves, and that the spiderlings might be driven out into the world by hunger?

    Mainly, I keep wondering what causes this shape to repeat itself in two so divergent process, the physics of fluids and spider nests of all things… some underlying principle of efficiency…

    @ 6
    Yes. So weird.

  8. Walter Solomon says

    Is it an astronomical observatory for the arachnid set? Are spiders sky-watchers? If moths use stars for navigation like ancient mariners, I don’t see any problems with spiders cataloguing constellations.

  9. Larry says

    @10 – I don’t see any problems with spiders cataloguing constellations.

    Spider #1: Look over there. What do those stars remind you of?
    Spider #2: A fly.
    Spider #1: Great. We’ll call that one “The Fly”. How about those stars over there?
    Spider #2: Another fly.
    Spider #1: Hmmm, I guess so. We can call that “The Other Fly”. Now, about that patch up there?
    Spider #2: Give it a rest, man! We’re spiders. Everything looks like a fly.

  10. nomdeplume says

    Potential predators being fenced out? But this is one of the most extraordinary spider structures I’ve seen.

  11. wzrd1 says

    I’m trying to remember just where I saw it, but I do recall a somewhat similar structure in a fungus.