5 Surprising Facts About Spiders

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5 Surprising Facts About Spiders

Tarantula Huge Web
This tarantula is crawling up a log covered in webs. Credit: Michael Blann/Stone/Getty Images

Spiders are eight-legged animals that inspire fear in most. As arthropods, spiders are invertebrates and have an exoskeleton. They have segmented bodies and jointed legs. Spiders are in the class Arachnid, which also includes scorpions, mites, and ticks. The following are five facts about spiders that may surprise you.

Spider Fact 1: Some Spiders Build Giant Webs

Spiders that remain at the same location for long periods of time are capable of producing large webs over time. For example, as a result of flooding in Pakistan in 2010, millions of spiders escaped into the trees and became trapped by the flood waters. A number of large trees became cocooned in spider webs as it took a long time for the waters to recede. Arachnologists and entomologists believe that giant webs may also be created as a result of spider ballooning. This event occurs when young spiders expel several strands of silk and use them to drift through the air. Millions of spiders ballooning at the same time can create enormous webs.

  • Fact 2: Some Spiders Are Cannibals
  • Fact 3: Spiders Don't Get Stuck to Their Webs
  • Fact 4: Spiders Use Electrostatic Webs to Catch Prey
  • Fact 5: Spider Venom May One Day Treat Disease
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5 Surprising Facts About Spiders

Spider Eating Spider
This jumping spider is eating another spider. Credit: xbn83/Moment Open/Getty Images

Spider Fact 2: Some Spiders Are Cannibalistic

Cannibalism is sometimes seen with spiders in times when food sources are scarce. In some species, the mother spider sacrifices herself and is eaten by her newly hatched young. In most cases, cannibalism is seen in relation to sexual encounters. Sexual cannibalism is a phenomenon that is seen widely among several species of female spiders. Females eat their male sex partner, either before or after mating. Why do female spiders exhibit this type of behavior? The answer appears to be hunger. The much larger female spider is not likely to turn down an easy meal when presented with an opportunity. Researchers from Miami University in Ohio have discovered that the size of the male spider in relation to the female will determine if the male is more likely to be eaten. Studies showed that in one species of spider, Hogna helluo, small males had an 80 percent chance of becoming the female's diner. Large males, on the other hand, were not eaten at all.

 

  • Fact 1: Some Spiders Build Giant Webs
  • Fact 3: Spiders Don't Get Stuck to Their Webs
  • Fact 4: Spiders Use Electrostatic Webs to Catch Prey
  • Fact 5: Spider Venom May One Day Treat Disease

Source:

  • University of Chicago Press Journals. "Female Spiders Eat Small Males When They Mate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2008. (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080910165846.htm).
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5 Surprising Facts About Spiders

Spider on Web
This banded-legged golden orb-web spider (Nephila senegalensis annulata) is walking on a web. Credit: Walter Bibikow/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Spider Fact 3: Spiders Don't Get Stuck to Their Webs

Researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Costa Rica believe they may have discovered why spiders don't get stuck to their own webs. It appears that the hairs on the spider's leg along with the production of a non-stick substance keeps them from sticking to their web. The discovery was made while studying two tropical species of orb-weaver spiders, Nephila clavipes (golden silk orb-weaver) and Gasteracantha cancriformis (spiny-backed orb-weaver). It was also discovered that during the web construction, spiders reduce adhesive forces by strategically moving their legs along the web. With the use of video cameras, hundreds of thousands of leg movements were captured and analyzed. When the researchers washed the non-stick substance from the spiders' legs, the spiders stuck to the web more firmly.

 

  • Fact 1: Some Spiders Build Giant Webs
  • Fact 2: Some Spiders Are Cannibals
  • Fact 4: Spiders Use Electrostatic Webs to Catch Prey
  • Fact 5: Spider Venom May One Day Treat Disease

Source:

  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Fancy footwork and non-stick leg coating helps spiders not stick to their own webs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2012. (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301103802.htm).
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5 Surprising Facts About Spiders

Butterfly Caught in Web
Most spiders spin webs using spider silk, a protein polymer which is very strong and elastic. Spider webs are also coated with a glue-like substance that has electrostatic properties. This causes insects and particles to become stuck on the web. Credit: Darrell Gulin/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Spider Fact 4: Spiders Use Electrostatic Webs to Catch Prey

Researchers from Oxford University have discovered that electricity plays a role in how spider webs capture insects and particles in the air. Spider webs are coated with a glue-like substance that has electrostatic properties. The glue causes the web to be attracted to all charged particles and to stick to airborne objects. Since any object that moves through the air develops static charge, webs can attract them. Spider webs can also be used to track pollutants such as pesticides, because these particles become trapped in the webs as well.

 

  • Fact 1: Some Spiders Build Giant Webs
  • Fact 2: Some Spiders Are Cannibals
  • Fact 3: Spiders Don't Get Stuck to Their Webs
  • Fact 5: Spider Venom May One Day Treat Disease

Source:

  • University of Oxford. "How electricity helps spider webs snatch prey and pollutants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 January 2014. (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140114113339.htm).
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5 Surprising Facts About Spiders

Chilean Rose Tarantula
Chilean rose tarantulas are very primitive spiders. They have poor eyesight (only capable of detecting changes in light and little else), so hunt by touch. They feed on insects and spiders and are native to the scrublands of central Chile. Credit: Tim Flach/Stone/Getty Images

Spider Fact 5: Spider Venom May One Day Treat Disease

Researchers are searching for a cure to muscular dystrophy through the use of spider venom. A protein found in the venom of the Chilean rose tarantula is being used to develop a drug that can counter the devastating effects of muscular dystrophy. In research conducted with mice, the protein was able to prevent muscle cells from deteriorating, thereby enabling the mice to gain strength. Individuals with muscular dystrophy have defects in muscle proteins which lead to the inability of muscle cells to keep their shape. According to the researchers, this causes ion channels in the cells to remain open leading to the break down of muscle tissue. In the study, the spider venom protein was able to keep the ion channels closed and suppress the symptoms of the disease.

 

  • Fact 1: Some Spiders Build Giant Webs
  • Fact 2: Some Spiders Are Cannibals
  • Fact 3: Spiders Don't Get Stuck to Their Webs
  • Fact 4: Spiders Use Electrostatic Webs to Catch Prey

Source:

  • University at Buffalo. "Protein found in spider venom could treat muscular dystrophy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 2012. (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120716142657.htm).