Earlier this summer while on vacation in Peru, graduate student Troy Alexander fell in love with the Amazon rainforest, and on his return asked an advisor at Georgia Tech if he could take a leave of absence and return to Peru as volunteer researcher. Three weeks later, Alexander found himself on a plane heading back South America to begin work for the Tambopata Macaw Project which focuses on parrot biology and conservation. It was a decision that would lead to his potential discovery of a new species of life, or at least one so rare nobody has a clue what it is.
While assisting with the project, Alexander stumbled onto fascinating structures attached to tree trunks, including a blue tarp that appeared to have been built by a spider or insect. The artistic organism had constructed a protective barrier around its egg sac complete with evenly placed vertical supports and perfectly parallel strands of webbing that unmistakably mimics a white picket fence. Though he had no idea what built it, he snapped a few photos, hoping that when he got home an entomologist would help him zero in on the moth or spider responsible and that would be the end of the story.
Weeks after his return, Alexander hoped for a quick ID by posting a photos to Reddit’s popular “whatsthisbug” subreddit where biologists and experts in both insects and arachnids were all stumped. He says the photos have now been viewed “by the professional entomologists moderating Whatsthisbug, but also entomologists at Cal Tech, Georgia Tech, Rice University, the Smithsonian Institute, and more… [but] still no definite confirmation.” Some suspect that it could be something similar to the
Ribbed-Cocoon Maker Moth which also builds a protective structure, but nothing so distinct as this fence.
Scientists estimate there are still millions of undiscovered plant and animal species on Earth, so it’s no surprise that there are still plenty of undiscovered lifeforms out there, it’s just amazing that something so creative has never been documented before.
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