Spiders webs in the rain forests of Nahuel Huapi National Park

Nahuel Huapi National Park is located in the Patagonian Lake District in Argentina. The landscape consists of Patagonian steppe at lower elevations and Valdivian temperate forests at higher elevations.

If you take time to explore the plants in the forest it becomes clear that the spider’s webs are very different to the organised orb webs that are commonly seen elsewhere.

The forests in Nahuel Huapi National Park are incredible and diverse due to the rainfall and variations in altitude. They are home to ancient trees like lenga, coihue, and cypress. These woodlands provide habitats for various animals, including wild boar and Andean condors.

The forests in Nahuel Huapi National Park

Nahuel Huapi National Park’s forests are a fascinating tapestry of biodiversity, shaped by the park’s unique geographical features. Spanning vast areas, these woodlands are primarily composed of ancient tree species such as lenga (Nothofagus pumilio), coihue (Nothofagus dombeyi), and cypress (Austrocedrus chilensis). These trees form dense canopies that thrive in the cool, temperate climate of Patagonia.

The park’s varying altitudes and microclimates along with the varied lakes play a crucial role in the forest’s composition and distribution. The two highest peaks in the park are Cerro Catedral at 2,388 metres and Cerro Tronador, on the Chilean border at 3,491 metres. At higher elevations, lenga trees dominate, while coihue trees thrive in lower elevations. The diverse range of tree species sustains a rich ecosystem, providing habitats for numerous animal species.

The park’s abundant rainfall, which averages around 2,000 mm annually, plays a crucial role in supporting the health of these forests. This ample precipitation ensures a continuous water supply for the trees, contributing to their impressive growth and vitality.

Cob (tangle) webs

The webs in Patagonia are totally different.  Cob (tangle) webs may look messy, but they are actually quite strategic. The web is anchored in space by an upper trellis, and it is made up of a littery mesh of threads. Some of these threads are high-tension catching threads that reach a substrate and are lined with sticky droplets. When a crawling insect breaks one of these threads, it is drawn up into the web.

Tunnel spider webs

The other interesting webs are found in the choisya, a white flower that spread across the forest floor.  At first glance, the plants looked completely normal.

However, a closer look reveals that the leaves are curled into a small tube.  This is held in place with silks spun around the leaves to form a tunnel for a small spider.  Once they are spotted they will be seen everywhere. It is amazing that the plants survive with this amount of manipulation.

Other spider web designs

While cob webs and tunnel webs were the two types seen in the rainforest in Patagonia there are a number of other designs that spiders have developed for catching their prey.

Electrostatic horizontal spider webs (woolly webs)

The webs in Patagonia are totally different.  A messy random selection of silks, spread between trees, collecting debris as well as a meal for the resident spider.  This type of web works in a different way from the orb web, having electrostatic silk rather than sticky silk.  

Anything passing into the web will be attracted in a similar way to cling film attracting small objects in the wrong place.  The webs are also horizontal collecting things as they fall rather than the vertical orb webs which catch flying insects.

Sheet webs

Sheet webs are like deadly hammocks. They are strung across grass or leaves and consist of a dense mass of threads with a maze of crisscrossing trip threads strung above the sheet. When an insect flies into one of these trip threads, it is knocked off course and falls into the net below. theses are often seen in the early morning as a coating of webs across the fields.

Orb webs

Orb webs are wheel-shaped and are the type of spider web that is most commonly drawn and associated with a spider’s web. They are designed to capture flying insects. The frame is made of durable silk, while the spokes are made of an elastic capture thread that is lined with sticky droplets to secure the victim. When an insect flies into the web, it becomes entangled in the sticky droplets and is unable to escape.

How to get to the forest in Nahuel Huapi National Park

The easiest way to get to Nahuel Huapi National Park is to fly into Bariloche. There are also bus and train services from other parts of Argentina. From here it is possible to reach the rainforest trekking from Lago Frías or from a number of other hikes in the national park.

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