Published: Sat, July 07, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

#WeirdNews: Electricity potential answer to the mystery of ‘flying’ spiders

#WeirdNews: Electricity potential answer to the mystery of ‘flying’ spiders

How do they do it? To do this, it releases a thin thread of web, and then the wind carries the spider in the far distance.

A spider using its spinnerets to balloon off into the air. Some say that they are even capable of crossing the oceans.

Aerial dispersal is a crucial process for many insects, and often occurs soon after birth to give species the best chance of surviving and spreading over a wide area.

The mystery of how spiders can fly for thousands of miles even in the complete absence of wind has finally been solved, researchers claim. It's every spider for himself and, in this situation, the wisest thing one can do is flee. Ballooning is an excellent way to get out of trouble while at the same time enabling the spiders to disperse to new habitats. It's also very risky, but it's still worth it.

"Charles Darwin mused over how thermals might provide the forces required for ballooning as he watched hundreds of spiders alight on the Beagle on a calm day out at sea", explained the researchers in the paper.

The atmosphere s static electricity - the same one that bristles hair after a balloon is rubbed on a wool sweater - is another possible explanation, which researchers at Britain s Bristol University chose to put to the test.

You might not feel it, but you're now breathing through an electric circuit. It's what makes thunderstorms possible. On a stormy day or in the presence of charged clouds, the APG can soar to 10 kV/m.

To find out whether the atmosphere's electric fields influenced in any way ballooning, Morley and her colleague Daniel Robert carried out a series of experiments in the lab with Linyphiid spiders (Erigone). When the electric fields were deactivated, the ballooning spiders fell back down.

When the electric fields were switched on, the researchers noticed a considerable uptick in ballooning behavior. In fact, as the Inquisitr recently reported, German scientists have written a study detailing how crab spiders have learned to harness the power of the wind and use it to deploy giant silk parachutes that carry them for hundreds of miles into the air.

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"As a sensory biologist, I was keen to understand what sensory system they might use to detect electric fields", said Morley.

It also showed sensory hairs called trichobothria found on the surface of the spiders' exoskeletons move in response to electric fields.

It is well known that spiders can float in the air in search of a new habitat.

'The next step will involve looking to see whether other animals also detect and use electric fields in ballooning. The study, however, shows that variations in APG might explain the discrepancies - something worth studying in another study.

They also note, "Several mechanistic questions now emerge, pertaining to the dielectric characteristics of ballooning silk and whether altitude control and navigation take place".

In the future, the University of Bristol researchers plan to investigate the properties of the silk used in ballooning.

APGs and the electric fields surrounding all matter can be detected by insects.

The findings appear this week in the journal Current Biology.

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