Scientists have found that trap-jaw spiders tend to attack their victims with very fast reflexes.
Mecysmaucheniidae spiders are to be found only in New Zealand and parts of South America. At first sight, they don’t attract much attention.
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That is because they are boring and dull-looking spiders that live on the land and seek their prey there. However, the experts have found that these spiders have lightning quick reflexes with which they attack their prey.
The study was published in the scholarly Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 7.
The extra speed and velocity with which they strike their prey is something which has undergone an evolution four times in this particular family of spiders.
We know next to nothing about these spiders and there is still a lot to unearth about their habits and habitat. Such blitzkrieg-style predatory patterns were a hidden aspect up until now. There are also quite a few species that remain strangers to the scientific community.
“This research shows how little we know about spiders and how much there is still to discover,” said Hannah Wood, curator of spiders at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
“The high-speed predatory attacks of these spiders were previously unknown. Many of the species I have been working with are also unknown to the scientific community. Scientists who are curious about natural history discover new things because they focus on understudied organisms rather than well-known model organisms. These new findings then begin filling in a puzzle, revealing epic stories about evolution across the tree of life.”
Wood concerned with the spider had always been interested in them, even as a kid. She later on traveled all over the globe in search of these spiders. After her first chance encounter with a trap-jaw spider, she noticed that these spiders sat with their jaws ready to attack a victim.
She kept 100 such spiders in her apartment and observed them time after time. She started noting down their activity levels with a camera. Later on she also used a high-speed camera to catch them in the act of hunting for their prey.
The footage she recorded shows that when an insect comes into view, the trap-jaw spider closes its vicious mandibles with the highest speed possible in order to crush the insect. Such behavior had been seen in ants but it had never been observed in arachnids.
High speed videos of 14 species of this family of spiders were made. They revealed a whole range of high speeds with which the spiders’ mandibles closed on their prey.
The fastest ones were twice as fast as the slowest. That is a wide margin. As for the power outputs of many of them, they far outshone the power of the muscles.
In other words, the muscular powers of the spiders were not enough to account for such fast and deadly biting power. Most probably the spiders store energy and then go ballistic in their attack strategies.
Much of the vicious striking techniques of this species of spider remain a mystery. The movements of these spiders could also be employed in the designing of robots in the future.
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“Many of our greatest innovations take their inspiration from nature,” Wood said. “Studying these spiders may give us clues that allow us to design tools or robots that move in novel ways.”