300m-long spider web the stuff of nightmares

In the truly weird and wonderful news category, comes a story from the Greek island village of Aitoliko.

Residents of the village, perched between two bridges in western Greece, recently woke to see their local beaches overtaken by the results of amorous arachnid action (pictured above) — and the results are far more Halloween than Valentine's Day.

The strange fruits of the Grecian spider love-fest take the form of a massive, 300 metre-network of webs stretched along the beach. Shrubs shrug under the net of silk. Palm fronds hang tangled in an unstoppable bad hair day. And, below it all, pairs of spiders are busy building, eating and, of course, reproducing.

Greek news website Newsit.gr asked a biology expert to weigh in on this web of intrigue — and it turns out, it's not as unusual as it seems. According to Maria Chatzaki, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Democritus University of Thrace, it's a seasonal occurrence.

"The phenomenon we observed in Aitoliko is not unprecedented," Ms Chatzaki said. "It is a seasonal phenomenon that occurs mainly at the end of the summer and early autumn, and is caused by the spiders of the genus Tetragnatha .

Tetragnatha spiders are sometimes called "stretch spiders" for their long, ovular bodies. They live throughout the world near water and are prolific web builders. Their webs are good not just for capturing prey such as flies and mosquitoes, but also for nesting.

“There are huge numbers of male and female spiders mating (under these webs)," Ms Chatzaki said. "Obviously, it results from favourable conditions that have made it possible to create this overpopulation."

The warm temperatures and high humidity of coastal Greece help create strong mating conditions for the spiders, as does an abundance of prey in the form of mosquitoes, Ms Chatzaki said.

The amorous spiders of Aitoliko are expected to continue mating long enough to secure the next generation and then die off without causing any lasting damage to humans or the environment.

Originally published on Live Science

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