When some species of spider jump, they trail a long strand of silk behind them. Although this has been seen as a safety line, researchers from Taiwan have found that it serves another purpose — as a dragline to stabilize them in mid-air.
The researchers observed different species of spiders as they made leaps across a gap. Comparing ones that don't use silk draglines, and with a specific species that does, called the Adanson's House Jumper, they noticed a specific advantage going to the dragline-users.
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Here's a video of one that doesn't use the dragline:
That's a landing you can walk away from, but not a very graceful one.
However, here's the Adanson's House Jumper making that same leap (it's hard to spot at first, but the strand of silk it's spinning out behind it becomes easier to see around 9 seconds in):
An almost perfect 8-point landing.
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According to the researchers, the study showed that the spider is making adjustments to the silk mid-jump, to keep itself oriented for a proper landing. They say that learning more about how the spider does this may provide a new biomimetic design for maneuverable robots.
(Photo courtesy: Wikipedia)
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