The familiar spiral web of orb-weaving spiders is simultaneously a key evolutionary milestone, an engineering marvel, and a work of art. Surprising new research suggests that this seemingly complex design has been repurposed, and may even have been wholly reinvented in different spider groups, over 140 million years of evolution. Combining specimens from the Harvard collection, stunning photography by Gustavo Hormiga of George Washington University, and multimedia technology, Orb-Weavers will examine the evolution of the orb web and explore how capture strategies used by its arachnid builders have shaped web design.
“Through collaborative work between Harvard and The George Washington University we have been able to uncover new relationships among spider lineages, illustrating that the evolution of the orb-web is much more complex than originally thought, with many losses across the spider tree of life,” commented Gonzalo Giribet, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Curator of Invertebrate Zoology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.
This project was made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation
About the Harvard Museum of Natural History
One of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture, the Harvard Museum of Natural History is located at 26 Oxford Street on the Harvard campus, an 8-minute walk from the Harvard Square Red Line MBTA station. Admission to the connected Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology is included in one ticket. The museum is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, 361 days/year. Regular admission: adults $12; seniors and students, $10; youth ages 3–18, $8; under 3 free. For directions, exhibition schedules, free public lectures, and information on parking, see the website http://hmnh.harvard.edu/ or call 617.495.3045.
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Blue Magruder, Harvard Museums of Science & Culture