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Whoa! Did Scientists Discover a Winged Spider?


As posted on Facebook, April 21, 2013:
Winged Spider

Netlore Archive: Viral image purports to be a scan of a newspaper clipping confirming that scientists have discovered a "winged spider."

Via Facebook

Description: Viral image / Hoax
Circulating since: Dec. 2012
Status: Fake

Update: Early Summer Threatens UK with Volat-Araneus (The Flying Spider) - A humorous March 2014 revamp of the winged spider hoax that subjects readers to a double dose of trickery.

Analysis: The very notion that spiders might take wing and attack from the air must give give nightmares to arachnophobes, but if you are one of those so afflicted you can rest easy in this instance because the image is bogus, as is the caption. No such discovery was made. No such critter is known to exist.

The fake image was created by doctoring an actual photo of a common fishing spider (Dolomedes sp.) found on this website: North Carolina Spider Photos. The original is credited to Will Cook of Duke University.

While the alleged discovery is a hoax, be aware that there is such a thing as a "winged spider" (scientific name Araneus albotriangulus, more commonly known as an orb weaver spider), but don't panic. Its so-called "wings" are just decorative markings. It can't fly.

I regret to report that it isn't strictly accurate to say that spiders never fly, however. There's a documented phenomenon known as "ballooning" wherein some smaller arachnid species use strands of their own silk to glide long distances through the air on breezy days — sometimes hundreds of miles.

I just thought you should know.

More scary spider stories:
The Spider in the Oreo
The Angolan Witch Spider
Attack of the Butt Spiders!
Giant Spider Found in Manchester
Brown Recluse Spider Bite Photos

Sources and further reading:

'Scientists Discover Winged Spider!' What a Headline! And What a Picture!
Insect House, 9 January 2013

North Carolina Spider Photos
Carolina Nature, 21 April 2013

Dolomedes Sp. - Fishing Spider
Florida Nature, 13 May 2002

Winged Spider - Araneus Albotriangulus
Brisbane Insects and Spiders, 18 March 2010

Leap Forward for 'Flying' Spiders
BBC News, 12 July 2006

Last updated 07/21/14

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