Gaia Community

compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion

These Mysterious "Picket Fences" in the AMAZON 

Weird & Wild they may be - but scientists have no idea what made them or 

what their purpose might be. Georgia Tech doctoral student Troy Alexander 

stumbled upon these two-centimeter-long white structures growing on trees

in Peru on June 7. Since then, the intricate handiwork has baffled scientists.

Although most agree it was likely built by an insect, no one can identify the 

species that built it, or what the fence might be protecting. “I thought anything 

this distinctive would have been discovered alreadyI’ve talked to researchers

worldwide and haven’t found an answer, so I don’t feel crazy saying that I’ve 

found a new species, or at the very least, a new behavior ” Alexander said.

“What Is That ?”

Alexander made the discovery when he was volunteering at the Tambopata

Research Center as part of the Tambopata Macaw Project. He noticed

something unusual on one of the blue tarps the group was working under

for shade. (Read more about a new species of decoy spider that was

discovered at Tambopata.) “I looked up and thought, ‘What is that ?’”

Alexander said. “At the time, I thought a Urodid moth had started building

a cocoon and then just got distracted and didn’t finish or got eaten.”


Intrigued, Alexander snapped a few photos to show an entomologist back

at the center. But the expert had never seen anything like it. Neither had

anyone on Reddit’s What’s This Bug group, where Alexander also posted

the photo. Soon after, he saw several more of these structures, which

consist of a tall, white conical post in the middle, surrounded by what can

only be described as a small, circular white picket fence.

Having spotted several, Alexander knew that this wasn’t just the efforts of

a distracted moth. He posted these new photos on Reddit and got a few

suggestions, but nothing conclusive. Alexander’s leading hypothesis—one

proposed by a Reddit reader—is that the structure was spun and built by a

spider instead of a standard web. (Also see “Photos: World’s Biggest,

Strongest Spider Webs Found.”)

Instead of spinnerets, or silk-spinning organs, some spiders have what’s

called a cribellum, which, instead of spinning silk fibers, pushes the

molecules through a fine mesh. “Looking more closely at the photos,

I thought, yeah, that does make sense. It does look like the silk was just

pushed through a mesh,” Alexander said.

Views: 41

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Gaia Community to add comments!

Join Gaia Community

© 2018   Created by Michael Grove.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service