Spidery ‘Plankton’ Pours Down

ENVIRONMENT

Millions of spiders dropped from the sky in Australia, blanketing the countryside with their webs. “We see these falls of spiderwebs that look almost as if it’s snowing,” said one local resident. (Nat Geo News)

Use our resources to learn about slightly more terrifying arachnids from Down Under.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map, in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Spiders like this one are ballooning up and raining down on southeastern Australia. Photograph by Robert Whyte, courtesy Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Spiders like this one are ballooning up and raining down on southeastern Australia.
Photograph by Robert Whyte, courtesy Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Discussion Ideas

  • What is “ballooning”? Is it an Australian thing?

 

  • Some reports say that it is “raining baby spiders” in Australia. What two things are inaccurate about that statement?
    • It isn’t raining. The spiders are being carried by wind, not precipitation.
    • The spiders aren’t babies. According to Nat Geo News, “the spiders are actually just ‘very, very small’ adults called sheet-web weavers or money spiders.”
      • FYI: The huge “money spider” family gets its nickname from a legend that says if you find a spider on you with a trail of silk, it must be trying to spin you a new set of expensive silken clothes!

 

 

 

  • According to Nat Geo News, most aerial plankton die before touching down. How do they die?
    • Weather: Precipitation and strong winds can crush and drown tiny “flying specks.”
    • Predators: Aerial plankton provide a nice “to-go meal” for predators such as birds and insects.

 

Customize this map and experiment with layers to understand the climate and weather conditions common to the “ballooning” taking place in southeast Australia.

Customize this map and experiment with layers to understand the climate and weather conditions common to the “ballooning” taking place in southeast Australia.

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Millions of Spiders Rain Down on Australia—Why?

Nat Geo: Angel Hair in New South Wales map

Journey North: Plankton in the Sky? Observing Aerial Plankton

(extra credit!) Invertebrate Systematics: Orsonwelles, a new genus of giant linyphiid spiders (Araneae) from the Hawaiian Islands

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s