A new study has showed that besides being able to fly spiders can be skillful sailors as well. Using their legs and web spiders can move across water like a sailboat.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham have examined 352 spiders, meaning 21 species in total, which they gathered from nature reserves in Nottingham. The spiders were exposed to blasts of air both on solid surface and on water and afterwards the researchers compared their behavior.
The researchers observed how the spiders used their web as an anchor in order to slow down or stop. Spiders could use their web to hold on to debris that is floating on the surface of the water. They can also use it to reach the shore. The researchers noted:
“Our observations suggest that a possibility could be that the silk may sometimes work as a dragline for the water-trapped spider to attach to floating objects or to the shore.”
When they are on water the spiders use their legs as sails and also change the position of their body in order to take full advantage of the wind power.
These skills could help spiders who are not capable of ballooning or could be useful in case of heavy rain or floods. Ballooning is a form of flying which can carry the arachnids up to 19 miles. The spider catches the wind with silk and is lifted off the ground. However this method is also risky because the spider has no control over the direction where it travels. If they land on water they can use their legs and web in order to sail.
The technique of ballooning is not new, but sailing is a newly-observed skill in terrestrial spiders. Co-author of the study Dr. Sara Goodacre explained that when spiders land someplace where they do not perfectly fit they have strategies which help them cope with the situation. This is such an example. She also said that this study explains how spiders are able to reach certain places: for instance spiders that can be found on farms. They are important for agriculture because they function as pest controllers.
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