The news might be terrifying for arachnophobes, but a study shows that spiders have sailing skills that aid them in moving across waters. It’s well known and observed that spiders have the ability to fly over decent distances, but it hasn’t been witnessed until now that waters don’t pose an obstacle, either.
A study has shown that the eight-legged insect that is the cause of nightmares for some people are not only able of airborne travel, but seafaring as well. There have been questions along the years how they’re able to so quickly spread to new or isolated habitats, such as islands recently formed through volcanic activity.
All of the credit had been given to their flying abilities, but it turns out that they are just as capable sailors as they are pilots. Spiders use the air in order to attack prey or travel long distances, a method otherwise known as ‘ballooning’. This effectively implies using their silk to catch the wind, lifting them up into the air.
On a windy day, they can travel up to 18,6 miles in order to search for food or a new habitat. That in itself is both fascinating and frightening, but it adds to the prowess of such a common insect.
However, their abilities to sail on water has not been examined until now. Researchers conducted the study on 325 spiders gathered from nature reserves, each belonging to one of 21 different common species.
Under observation, a great majority of 201 spiders showed themselves capable of sailing across water. Standing on the surface was expected due to the water proof nature of their legs, but moving was not. Most of them were of small sizes and could be easily influenced by the wind, but that is not an impediment for proficient sailors.
The spiders seemed to use legs as a sail in order to switch directions and their silk as the anchor when they wished to stop. It enables them to travel across long distances as it was clear that they were fairing well to the adjustments of wind blasts.
The question seems to have been floating in the air for a while though. Or sailing across the waters, apparently.
The new study has been deemed to “dot the line” for many curiosities. Until now, it was believed that when spiders take to air travel, they run the natural risk of falling into water and drowning. But their behavior within trays filled with water and against pump-generated winds has proven why they’re part of one of the most efficient ecosystems in the world.