Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gliding Spiders

Quick update this evening.  Vadas Gintautas and I did our first trial runs today in our new project on spider aero-control.  The goal is to determine how spiders stabilize and control their descents following a fall.  Work by Robert Dudley, especially, has shown that many animals without wings (especially arthropods) can control their falls (and even glide) using their bodies, heads, and limbs as basic control surfaces.  This seems to be particularly well developed in arboreal (tree-living) animals, as would be expected.

Rob has primarily worked out the dynamics of wingless gliding in tropical ants.  Vadas and I expect that climbing spiders can use similar dynamics, but this has yet to be shown to in the literature - so we're dropping spiders for science!  Our preliminary results suggest that spiders take on stereotyped aerial positions that confer aerial stability.  We have done runs with a range of sizes/ages, but so far have only tested one species.  More to come on this area of work.

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