What do an endangered spider and highway construction have in common? Well, in San Antonio, Texas, the discovery of a Braken Bat Cave meshweaver, an eyeless spider named for the unique web it spins, has halted a highway construction project.
The $15 million project was stopped until authorities can determine how to protect the spider's habitat, which happens to be in the middle of the construction zone. The meshweaver had not been seen in three decades, and biologists like Jean Krejca have been on hand to "observe and preserve" the site because it is filled with natural resources like songbirds and cave animals. Krejca compared the discovery of the meshweaver to "stumbling on a new Galapagos Island in terms of the biological significance of the region." Though only one spider was found, researchers believe the entire area might be a habitat for the meshweaver.
So this week brought the news that the construction plan will have to be redesigned. A Texas Department of Transportation official commented that while they care about easing traffic congestion, they also aim to be "good stewards of our natural resources." Until the project is redesigned for a reroute, it's estimated that 80,000 commuters will have to wait and find other roads to navigate to their destinations.
Work began at the intersection of Highway 151 and Loop 1604 in April but has not continued since the spider was first found in late August. So until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Federal Highway Administration can come to an agreement on how not to disturb the endangered spider's habitat, no action will be taken on the freeway.
The meshweaver has been on the endangered species list since 2000 and was first discovered in 1980 in an area just 5 miles from the construction project.