First Flying Spider Discovered

Posted: Aug 20 2015, 7:22am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News


First Flying Spider Discovered

The flying spiders come from genus "Selenops." They have remarkable ability to maneuver in the air and landing safely on desired place.

Researchers have discovered new spiders that can fly through the air and steer themselves towards a target instead of falling splat to the ground.

A group of researchers conducted a fieldwork in the tropical forests of Panama and Peru. They found that a spider of genus Selenops has a remarkable ability of maneuvering in the mid-air and landing successfully on targeted locations.

“We don’t really expect to see gliding behavior in spiders.” Stephen P. Yanoviak, the head of the study and a tropical arthropod ecologist at University of Louisville, said in a statement.

Researchers dropped 59 spiders which they called “flatties” from the trees as high as 60 to 80 feet. Most of them (almost 93%) glided successfully to the nearby tree trunks. The remaining 7% landed on the ground.  

Study suggested that those spiders were well-adapted to skydiving. They spread their legs for changing aerial trajectories and landed head-first on the desired sport but exhibited no obvious directional control when dropped off the trees. Their aerial performance was also restricted by the body mass and wings load.

Yanoviak and his colleagues are researching the gliding behavior of wingless canopy arthropods for almost a decade. They have found that ants, bristletails and some larvae are those non-flying insects that can maneuver instead of falling like a rock.

“As far as adult arthropods are concerned, only ants, bristletails and spiders use directed aerial descent,” said Yanoviak. “However the wingless immature stages of various insects that are winged as adult can also glide very well. These include cockroaches, mantids, Katydids, stick insects and true bugs.”  

Researchers believe that taking aerial route and landing on tree trunk is useful tool to avoid predators.

“My guess is that many animals living in the trees are good at aerial gliding, from snakes, lizards to ants and now spiders,” said Robert Dudley, the co-author of the study. “If a predator comes along, it frees the animal to jump if it has a time tested way of gliding to the nearest tree rather than landing in the understory or in a stream.”  

This study can be taken as a starting point in terms of gliding spiders. Further researchers are required to address the gaps.

“This study raises many questions that are wide open for further study,” said Yanoviak. “For instance how acute is the vision of these spiders? How do they target a tree? What is the effect of their hairs or spines on aerodynamic performance?”

The study was published on The Royal Society.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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