September 13, 2007

The Arachnid Threat

There's something weird going on. As we have often remarked, the press, especially the BBC, is all too ready to pick up on questionable stories about animal communication, yet there is a serious story to which they aren't paying much attention. I refer to the giant spider web at Lake Tawakoni State Park in Texas. The web covers hundreds of square meters. Not only was it built by hundreds of spiders, who normally build isolated webs and eat each other if they get too close, but entomologist Allen Dean reports that they belong to twelve different families! We're talking massive inter-species communication here folks, and not particularly closely related species either. It is comparable to communication and collaboration between human beings (family Hominidae) and Lar Gibbons (family Hylobatidae).

Now I don't know what the size of their vocabulary is or whether they have recursion, but the fact is, they are communicating, and speaking for arachnophobes everywhere, I don't like it. If they keep this up, pretty soon it won't just be little spiders in North Texas building a big web, it will be armies of giant tarantulas coming to get us. Think of the bugs in Starship Troopers. We need a massive, international research effort into spider communication right now, so that we can put a stop to this menace. I don't know why the BBC and other journalists haven't raised the alarm. They're probably in league with the spiders.

Posted by Bill Poser at September 13, 2007 02:43 PM