Have you ever wondered how flying spiders manage to travel through air? A recent study developed by scientists from Technische Universität in Berlin discovered the mechanism behind this behavior. It all starts with their ability to identify proper atmospheric conditions. If the wind can help them travel, they start producing nanoscale fibers that act like parachutes.
Flying spiders perform ballooning
Most spiders engage in regular activities, like building webs and traveling on the ground. However, some of them can sense when a wind is coming and travel in the air for several hundreds of miles. They do it during the mating season, to find food, or simply to abandon a place and find a new site to colonize. Flying spiders are usually young and small, but some bigger species might also do it.
This behavior is called ballooning and has been quite a mystery for researchers. Even this is not the first study on flying spiders, the German researchers performed the first accurate measurements of the nanoscale fibers, and also monitored the spiders’ ability to predict wind. The main object of their study was the large crab spider, which measured only 5 millimeters in length.
Researchers measured all conditions necessary for ballooning
These flying spiders could measure the speed and direction of the wind by raising their front legs. This way, they could orient themselves and find out how to produce their parachuting nanoscale fibers. Overall, they produced around 60 fibers of about 3 meters each. It turns out the creatures can identify the ideal wind conditions and only then do they start producing the parachuting silk.
After studying flying spiders right in the middle of ballooning, they performed more calculations. This way, they could identify the ideal conditions for flying. It turns out light winds are perfect for a ballooning attempt to be successful. The study on this interesting behavior was published in the journal PLOS Biology.
Image source: OpenCage