Running into an unseen spiderweb in the woods can be scary enough, but what if you had to worry about a spiderweb – and the spider – being catapulted at you?
Running into an unseen spiderweb in the woods can be scary enough, but what if you had to worry about a spiderweb – and the spider – being catapulted at you? That’s what happens to insects in the Amazon rain forests of Peru, where a tiny slingshot spider launches a web – and itself – to catch unsuspecting flies and mosquitoes.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have produced what may be the first kinematic study of how this amazing arachnid stores enough energy to produce acceleration of 1,300 meters/second2 – 100 times the acceleration of a cheetah. That acceleration produces velocities of 4 meters per second and subjects the spider to forces of approximately 130 Gs, more than 10 times what fighter pilots can withstand without blacking out.
The Peruvian spider and its cousins stand out among arachnids for their ability to make external tools – in this case, their webs – and use them as springs to create ultrafast motion. Their ability to hold a ready-to-launch spring for hours while waiting for an approaching mosquito suggests yet another amazing tool: a latch mechanism to release the spring.
Continue reading at Georgia Tech.
Image via Lawrence E. Reeves.