Another reason to look up while venturing to the tropical forests has been brought to our attention as gliding spiders were found and are cleverer than believed before, which is worrying enough in itself.
For the sake of all arachnophobes out there who are already wincing at the thought, it should be mentioned that their skydiving skills have been found to be more used for self-preservation and escape than attacks or hunting. Regardless, the view of gliding spiders above your head can’t possibly be pleasant.
Ignoring the goose bumps though, these astounding Selenopoid spiders have managed to develop accurate and successful ways of preventing an escape from ending up horribly bad. Lead author of the study, Stephen Yanoviak from the University of Lousville, Department of Biology, and his team have been climbing trees in Panama and Peru in order to catch a better glimpse of their effective escape methods.
Called “flatties”, due to their flat body shape that makes them excellent for aerial maneuvering, the Selenopoid spiders have developed a way of assuring a safe landing in a proper and danger-free spot.
While some spiders have been discovered to use their silk to maneuver winds in a technique called “ballooning”, these South and Central America natives require no such thing. The spiders essentially steer themselves with their longs legs while falling through the air.
Researchers gathered up a few specimens, dyed them with fluorescent powder and then simply dropped them from a height of 65 to 80 feet, while following them with a camera. And, apparently, no spiders were harmed during the experiment.
In fact, “flatties” managed to tilt their bodies similar to skydivers and redirect their descent back to the same tree trunk they first fell from. Some of the more skilled specimens were able to do so, even after barely descending 13 feet, which is a remarkable display of speed and dexterity that is better than the agility prowess of cats.
The scientists observed that some spiders were also able to recover if they bounced off the tree and once again redirect their course to a safer landing. It’s believed that “flatties” have aptly evolved and gained gliding abilities to avoid the ground-dwelling predators that might be waiting for them at the bottom of the tree.
They are 2 inches long across their flat shapes, which is quite big in terms of a spider, but are extremely light, which makes them excellent skydivers and are apparently clever enough to know precisely how to use their abilities. They know what predators are lurking beneath and they’re showing off impressive skills to avoid them.
Image source: flickr.com