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. 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 abortedmoth cocoon, but then he found several more, all of which looked quite similar. Chris Buddle, an arachnologist at McGill University, said that neither he nor any of his associates know what it is.
"I have no clue," he said. It's "a seriously fascinating mystery."
"I have no idea what animal made that," said Norman Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
If 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.
One survey of arthropods inPanama's jungle, in an area about the size of Manhattan, found 25,000 species of insects, spiders and other arthropods, 70 percent of which were new to science. That study also found that there were 300 arthropod species for every one mammal species.