Spiders - why do spiders spin webs?
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Why do spiders spin webs?

Spider
A fossil spider

Spiders evolved from annelid worms beginning about 540 million years ago. They were among the first land creatures with more than one cell.

Orb web
An orb web

By about 300 million years ago, spiders evolved silk and spinnerets and could spin webs. They probably ate other early arthropods, and lived on the ground among the big ferns and mosses that grew all over the earth at this time.

At about the same time, the first bigger land animals began to come out of the water: frogs and salamanders. These ate spiders.

The earliest evidence of an orb web, the round kind that is the most normal kind of spider web, comes from one that was preserved in amber about 110 million years ago, but spiders were probably making these webs as early as 135 million years ago. That's because flying insects like grasshoppers and bees were evolving at this time, and so the spiders evolved webs to catch them. At the same time, birds also evolved that could eat the bees and grasshoppers - and also eat spiders.

Bibliography and further reading:

Arthropods
Biology
Chemistry
Math
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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