Something in the Peruvian Amazon is making weird, intricate structures that resemble white picket fences surrounding an Isengard-like spire.
No one has any idea who the mysterious craftsbug (fungus? spider?) is, or what the structure is even used for, excepting the fence part, which almost makes sense. Nobody, not even the scientists. We asked.
The first of the fence-and-spire structures, spotted June 7. Troy Alexander, a graduate student at Georgia Tech, spotted the first of these structures on June 7. The little, seemingly woven fence was parked on the underside of a blue tarp near the Tambopata Research Center, in southeastern Peru. He later spotted three more of the bizarre enclosures on tree trunks in the jungle.
“All of them were on the small island used to view the parrot clay lick at Tambopata Research Center,” Alexander said. He described the fences as small – about 2 centimeters across — and posted a second photo of the structure on the subreddit whatsthisbug last week, hoping someone could explain the origin of the fortified mini-Maypoles. No one could.
We noticed the weirdness last Thursday, when Phil Torres, a biologist who also works at Tambopata, posted a link on Twitter. In the intervening days, we’ve tried to find out what on Earth could have made these tiny towers.
But it turns out that even scientists who study such things haven’t a clue.
“I have no idea what made it, or even what it is,” said William Eberhard, an entomologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
“I’ve seen the photo, but have no idea what animal might be responsible,” echoed Norm Platnick, curator emeritus of spiders at the American Museum of Natural History.
“I don’t know what it is,” said arachnologist Linda Rayor, of Cornell University. “My guess is something like a lacewing, but I don’t really know.”