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It’s Raining Spiders in Australia

(Photo: Keith Basterfield)

Ah, Australia: where big spiders explode into hordes of little ones and cobwebs cover entire towns. It is the continent where, more than anywhere else, Nature is trying very hard to kill you in creative ways.

For the residents of Goulburn, New South Wales, that means spiders. Millions of them appear to be raining down from the sky. Now you may argue, “John, that’s not how the water cycle works.” To which I will reply, “But: Australia.” And that reasoning will prevail.

Scientist Martyn Robinson suggests that what’s happening is that baby spiders are engaging in the “ballooning” migration technique. They build streamers of silk which catch the air and carry them away—sometimes as high as 3 kilometers off the ground. Those silks cover buildings and fields in a phenomenon called “Angel Hair.” The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Robinson:

"They can literally travel for kilometres … which is why every continent has spiders. Even in Antarctica they regularly turn up but just die," he said.

"That's also why the first land animals to arrive on new islands formed by volcanic activity are usually spiders."

In some years, the mass migration of baby spiders means "you can have entire fields and paddocks and trees festooned with this gossamer or Angel Hair, as some people call it," he said.

Just be glad that Australia’s snake population doesn’t migrate this way (to the best of my knowledge).

-via CGP Grey

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