A winged spider? The idea almost sounds like a joke — spiders are only very, very distantly related to any animals possessing wings — but apparently belief in the existence of such a winged spider has spread across the internet in recent months as the result of an image which recently went viral. To put it bluntly — Is the spider real? No — it’s a hoax. But for those interested, this article will go over the details of the hoax, as well as give me an opportunity to talk about spiders — which I love.
The viral photo is essentially just a doctored image of a spider — with wings added, and done up to look like it’s an article in an old, faded newspaper clipping. The photoshop isn’t very convincing for a variety of reasons — the edges of the pasted spider photo, the cheap-looking sepia effect used on the image to make it look faded, the caption below not matching any styles used in newspapers, etc. In short — the photoshop was done poorly enough that it’s immediately clear that it isn’t genuine.
More important than any of that though, is that even if the newspaper clipping were genuine, a winged spider is extremely unlikely to exist. Arachnids (and hence spiders) separated from their relatively close relatives the insects several hundred million years ago — well before wings and flight first developed in insect species. The only way then that there could be a winged spider is if wings evolved completely independently in spiders — in which case there would likely be many species of winged spiders, and they would be very known. Perhaps more important than any of that though is the fact that the ecological niches that almost all spiders fill would have no use of flight — most spider species are extremely successful ambush predators which rely on traps, deception, and complex strategies, to catch their prey, there wouldn’t be much purpose to the addition of wings. There are a couple of exceptions to this though — such as the mostly herbivorous spider species Bagheera kiplingi.
While there aren’t any species of spiders which fly with wings, some spiders actually do approximate flight as a means of travel, with the aid of their spider silk — via a phenomenon known as ‘ballooning’, whereby some species utilize strands of their silk to glide long distances through the air on windy days, sometimes for hundreds of miles.
To finish up the article here’s an image showing a sample of the wide variety of real spider species in the world. Enjoy.