Research

Flying Spiders Use Electric Fields

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Many species of spider fly with a technique calling ballooning. We’ve touched on spider flight before, but more recent research adds a new dimension to the phenomenon. Researchers showed that spiders can actually use electrical fields in their flight. When isolated from flow or outside electrical fields, researchers found that spiders would still begin ballooning behaviors when subjected to electrical fields similar to those found in nature. The spiders were even able to take off in the artificial environment, using the electrostatic force between the surrounding fields and their negatively charged silk strands. While electrical fields alone were enough to get spiders aloft, the team thinks spiders in nature likely still use a combination of electrostatic force and aerodynamic drag in order to travel the vast distances spiders have been known to cover. (Video and image credit: BBC; research credit: E. Morley and D. Robert)

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