Spider of the Week: The Basilica Orbweaver

A few months ago, my advisor went spider collecting for me, and came back with this really cool species:

Emma5.21.13lemniscata(b) (2)

This beautiful spider, Mecynogea lemniscata, gets its common name, the Basilica Orbweaver, from the domed-shaped, horizontal web that individuals build. While I don’t know everything about this species, here are a few interesting facts that I have learned so far:

  • Females attach egg sacs to each other vertically , and hang them from a thread. Some people even mistake these spider cocoons for butterfly or moth cocoons, as this egg sac structure is not incredibly common in spiders.
  • Females will detach their webs every night, so that they fall onto their egg sacs and provide another layer of protection for their eggs (spider behavior is SO incredible! See Carico, 1984 for more information)
  • Similar to P. oweni, individuals will occasionally aggregate on trees or bushes, in areas with high prey density and numerous web support structures. Some will even share support lines, though they keep their own, individual retreats.  It is likely that they do this to increase prey capture efficiency (See Buskirk, 1986 for more info)
  • The horizontal, dome shape of their webs has caused some controversy as to what family this spider really belongs to, as webs like this are usually characteristic of spiders in the Linyphiidae family. Many orbweavers build the classic, vertical, spiraling webs that most picture when trying to imagine a spider web. However, morphology and behavior tend to place these spiders into the Araneidae family, and most researchers believe, nowadays, that the M. lemniscata web structure is simply a classic example of convergent evolution with the Linyphiidae family web structure.

Carico 1984

Buskirk 1986

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