Scientists found a species of jungle spiders that display impressive skydiving skills and they require no silk or safety line in the process.
Researchers observed that the arachnids use their forelegs to steer in mid air and glide from tree to tree, although their species does not have a history of flights or free fall swings.
Authors of the finding admitted that they were surprised to learn about the gliding skills.
“There are no winged spiders. Spiders don’t fly,”
said Stephen Yanoviak, lead author of the spider study and tropical spider expert at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
Scientists believe that the spiders improved their skills over time when they noticed that there are more chances of survival in trees than standing on ground. Yet, they are still working on their skills and they did not always make it from first try.
Yanoviak and his fellow researchers have studied free-all insects and their behavior for years. During their experiments, they usually drop the unfortunate insect from a great height.
The team found that many types of ants have limited abilities to glide in mid-air; and so do some mantises and grasshoppers. Yet, not all spiders are skydivers. The first spiders used in the experiments failed the drop tests.
But when the team used “flatties,” some large spiders dwelling in the South American jungle, everything changed. These spiders get their name from their unusual body shape. Although they are quite wide, they are not thicker than a nickel.
Yet, the spiders are also known for their impressive speed and camouflage skills. You can rarely see a flatty unless it moves, researchers noted.
So, the research team had to climb a lot of trees and pop countless plastic bags over the tiny animals when they moved. Though their experiments debuted in Panama’s jungle, scientists found more specimens in Peru’s rain forest.
After they have caught the insects, researchers powdered them with fluorescent powder to spot them more easily and prevent them from clinging onto the containers used to contain them during the flight tests.
In both forests, scientists dropped the animals from a height of up to 80 feet or 25 meters. Surprisingly, the tiny insects displayed incredible cat-like maneuvers while in mid-air, and they were also significantly faster. They could turn themselves right side up in less than a second, direct their head downward to spot a nearby tea trunk, and engage in a gliding position.
Plus, the six-legged skydivers were able to swerve both left and right, making their gliding skills all the more impressive.
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