Research

Fly Away!

Spiders are often among the first colonists on newly formed volcanic islands. Thanks to their aerial skills, they are able to travel nearly anywhere by ballooning on strands of their own silk. Exactly how spiders as large as 20 milligrams manage this is still relatively known. A new study shows that crab spiders, like any careful aviator, use a foreleg to monitor wind conditions for 5 or more seconds before attempting take-off. The spiders will only spool out ballooning threads if the wind is warm and gentle. Wind speeds higher than 3 meters per second are an automatic no-go. When the spider decides conditions are favorable, they release as many as 60 nanoscale fibers that are several meters in length. The wind catches the silks and lifts them away to their next adventure. (Image credit: Science Magazine, source; research credit: M. Cho et al.)

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