According to scientists, some spiders can sail. They can actually harness the wind, weigh anchor and toss a line to a raft. They may even be able to cross vast oceans.
Recently published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, this research might explain why some types of spiders are present on nearly every corner of the globe. Additionally, spiders are great pest controllers. Knowing how they move can be useful to humans. “We really want to know more about where they go, what they eat, how they move, how they get to a farmer’s field — for our own benefit,” says Sara Goodacre, head of SpiderLab at the University of Nottingham in Britain.
Many spiders can also fly. They catch a breeze in webbing they spew from their abdomens in a practice called ballooning. This technique can move them a few feet or many miles to a neighboring country. Ballooning has allowed some species to conquer new habitats. Until now, arachnologists maintained that a spider’s domain ended at water’s edge. If they landed in a pond, creek or ocean, they were helpless. The notion left questions for scientists at SpiderLab.
How have so many spider species spread to most every continent?
Why have spiders been seen floating alive in the middle of oceans?
Why do they frequently turn up on islands newly formed by volcanic activity?
So, researchers collected 325 wild spiders and dropped them onto water to see how they fared. Every spider floated on the tips of their legs when they hit the water. Many of them pulled off wind-surfing ballets, catching the breeze by stretching legs upward or doing a “hand stand” on all eight legs thrusting their abdomens into the air. The wind pushed the spiders over surface like air-hockey pucks. Amazing!
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