Spiders are already the stuff of nightmares. These tiny land octopi with venomous bites and deathtrap-spinning buttholes don’t need any more ammunition to haunt our thoughts late at night. A new study from Current Biology in July claims, however, that spiders have learned how to fly. So I guess none of us are sleeping anymore, huh.
Accompanied video footage from the study shows spiderlings using wind currents to fly through the air. In true Spidey fashion, they use their webs to propel themselves forward. Unlike Peter Parker, though, it isn’t as much a graceful swing as it is a rapid and random float, or “ballooning.”
The spiders point their abdomens into the air, shoot gossamer threads out of their backside, and wait for them to catch enough draft to be lifted into the air. Imagine something akin to a kite or a balloon, but, you know, more terrifying. This technique is used by smaller arachnids — mainly spiderlings — though, some larger spiders have been observed to participate in ballooning as well, according to a June study from PLOS Biology.
But this wind-based flight in spiders is not the only recent finding that has scientists talking. The study from Current Biology, conducted at the University of Bristol last month, found that spiders were able to fly within a closed chamber with no wind current at all.
No, they aren’t using black magic. The study’s authors, Erica Morley and Daniel Robert, discovered that if you introduce a small electric field into the environment, they are able to “feel” the waves and fly through the air. These early studies that experiment with electrostatic, created by Morley and Robert, suggest that a spider’s trichobothria is sensitive to electric fields and might be what insights its liftoff and airborne behavior.
If this is, in fact, proven to be true, arachnids will become the second species, along with bees, to be able to detect and utilize natural electric fields — which would be pretty amazing if it weren’t so darn scary.
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