For decades, the story of spider evolution went like this: As insects became more and more diverse, with some species taking to the skies, spiders evolved new hunting strategies, including the ability to weave orb-shaped webs to trap their prey.
From that single origin, the story goes, orb-weaver spiders diverged along different evolutionary paths, leading to today, where several species weave similar — though not identical — webs.
It’s a good story, but there’s just one problem — Harvard scientists now know it’s not true.
The largest-ever phylogenetic study of spiders, conducted by postdoctoral student Rosa Fernández, Gonzalo Giribet, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, and Gustavo Hormiga, a professor at George Washington University, shows that, contrary to long-held popular opinion, the two groups of spiders that weave orb-shaped webs do not share a single origin. The study is described in a July 17 paper published in Current Biology. More.
Hey, if we had to explain the problem with current evolutionary biology in a few words, we would say “It’s a good story, but there’s just one problem — it’s not true.”
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