Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini) is an orb-weaver spider – a member of the family Araneidae. Regularly seen in the Sibuya Game Reserve‘s bush. Like other spiders of the genus, they display extreme sexual dimorphism, with large females and small males. Females vary in total body length from about 18 to 22 mm (0.7 to 0.9 in), males being around one third or less of this length, at about 6 mm (0.2 in).
The spider’s silk is the toughest biological material ever studied, over ten times tougher than a similarly-sized piece of Kevlar. The average toughness of the fibres is 350 MJ/m3, and some are up to 520 MJ/m3, making the silk twice as tough as any other spider silk known.
The web of Darwin’s bark spider is remarkable in that it is not only the longest spanning web ever observed, but is among the largest orb webs ever seen, at an area of up to 2.8 square metres (30 sq ft). Nephila komaci, discovered in 2009, and some other Nephila species also make webs that can exceed 1 m (3 ft 3 in) across.
The spider was described along with a previously undescribed species of fly, which appeared to have a kleptoparasitic relationship with it. The flies often feed on the spider’s catches before the spider wraps them. Occasionally, spiders have been observed to chase away the flies when they land on something that the spider is eating.