Escondido Phoenix 1999
an exploration of art and nature in Escondido Canyon in Malibu

The Tour: a closer look
Historical Site No. 3 
The 'Invisible Spiders' of Escondido Canyon - 1961
The humble metal shed you see before you may appear forgettable and even 
obtrusive, yet its role in the discovery and classification of an extremely rare life 
form cannot be ignored. For fourteen years, it was the home & laboratory of Dr. 
Walton Kincade, an entomologist. In the fall of 1961, Dr. Kincade, of the University 
of California at Berkeley, discovered what may be the rarest life form in the 
terrestrial world, the Escondidio Vitrus Arachnidea or the Escondido Glass Spider. 
Possessing a biologically unique apparatus, this novelty of nature, has the ability to 
synthesize polymers of silicone and weave threads to produce webs of spun glass. 
The uniqueness of this creature is unquestionable in that it is the only known life 
form that can chemically utilize silicone as a building product. Escondido vitrius 
has the remarkable ability to pulverize minute grains of sand and granite (the 
source of the silicone) in its amazingly powerful mandibles. Studies have shown 
the force of the jaws to be just under 2,000 kilograms per square millimeter. In 
addition to the beautiful glass webs, the elusive spider is essentially invisible, a 
valuable trait when faced with aggressive predators. This unique transparency is 
in part related to the silicone synthesis performed by this rare creature and may 
explain why it has eluded discovery until the early sixties. The main predator of this 
spider is the Sand Wasp which stings the hapless spider and then lays it's eggs on 
the paralyzed spider's transparent body. After an incubation period of five to seven 
days, the eggs hatch and the larvae feed upon the helpless host. The mature size 
range of the invisible glass spider is from 2 to 2.5 inches when fully grown and it is 
only found in the micro-enviroment of Escondido Canyon. A nocturnal creature, it 
feeds primarily upon low flying and crawling insects trapped in it's funnel shaped 
glass web. 

*Two dozen small flags marking the spider locations, were place all over the site.

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This page last updated on October 3, l999.
 © Laura Burns