Seafaring spiders depend on their ‘sails’ and ‘anchors’

In this technique, the spiders use their silk to fly through the air.

“Once on the water surface, spiders react to the wind by raising their legs as sails”, the global team of scientists found. “Sailing spiders smoothly and stealthily slide on the water surface without leaving any turbulence…” In instances when the silk gets in contact with a floating material, the spider walks toward that material using the silk as its walking medium.

Charles Darwin when on his travels marvelled at the spider’s ability to drop onto the deck of HMS Beagle despite being miles away from dry land, says the project’s leader Morito Hayashi from London’s Natural History Museum. When walking, the spider moves its legs so swiftly and often in a downwind trend.

It seems that the spiders can spin their silk to use it as a kind of “lasso”, looping it around nearby objects to pull themselves to shore. The ballooning technique became the talk of the scientific world in May when a small town in South Australia was covered in baby spider webbing that has become known locally as “Angel Hair”. People were looking with great amazement at the incredible amount of webs that were covering entire fields in a white blanket of spider web. And 201 of them, which covers most common species, are also sailors. And it is absolutely fantastic! They employ these six techniques in order to remain afloat, but each species has a particular pattern of alternating them and along with a personalized gentile performance, specific “dances” have been developed for every spider.

Firstly, all spiders posses water resistant legs, that prevent them from emerging into the water, as they allow the spiders to stay in the water without actually getting wet.

The arachnids were placed on shallow trays filled with 1cm of water at the University of Nottingham’s “SpiderLab” and then buffeted with air pumps, mimicking the gusts of wind they’d find in their natural habitat.

The disposition to sail is likely associated with the tendency for aerial dispersal and potentially because sailing may minimize the consequences of landing on water. The airborne spider has little control over where it travels and could end up landing on water, which has been thought to be unsuitable for its survival.


p style=”text-align: center;”>Linyphiid spider sailing


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