New Spider Family Tree Tries to Untangle the Evolution of Webs

April 27, 2018
New Spider Family Tree Tries to Untangle the Evolution of Webs

A long-running and fiercely debated question among scientists "Did spiders evolve to spin the orb web only once? Or multiple times?" may have an answer in a new study in Current Biology, led by a team of researchers including Gonzalo Giribet and postdoctoral fellow, Rosa Fernández. The research team compared approximately 2,500 genes from 159 spider species to draw a new family tree containing multiple distinct branches of orb-weaving spiders. Based on their analysis, the team believes the ability to make orb webs arose multiple times and that spiders that make sticky orb webs and spiders that make non-sticky orb webs do not have a common ancestor. Media: New York Times

Image: The work of a long-jawed orb-weaver in Queensland, Australia. The new tree shows that 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. Credit Gustavo Hormiga