Space: Orchids use light as a reference point in microgravity in orbit wives


Spinning uses light as a reference point when spinning in microgravity found in the International Space Station (ISS) in Earth’s orbit, a study has found.

In their natural habitat on the surface of the planet, our eight-legged friends weave webs that are slightly odd – their centers closer to the upper edge.

The spider – seated at this center point – can move to travel across the web to catch prey, as they can move rapidly in the direction of gravity.

However, it was unclear what effect the web spinning process would have on moving around in low-gravity environments – and so NASA sent spiders to the ISS to investigate.

It was originally conceived as a ‘simple’ experiment to engage the presence of American middle school pupils, but the results have proved unpredictable and far-reaching.

Spiders use light as a reference point when spinning webs in the International Space Station (ISS) microgravity into Earth’s orbit, a study has found. Picture, a spider on the ISS

In its first study in 2008, NASA sent two intrepid ‘arachnotes’ to the ISS – a labyrinth orb weaver (‘Metepeira labyrinthia’), as the main subject, and as a second species of backup orbare, the case of Larinioides patigiatus. In. Was not alive before.

Unfortunately, the test did not go according to plan. First, one of the spiders crawled out of his cage to his mate – meaning that the two spiders overcame the webs of entanglement in their unexpectedly shared space.

In addition, the flies brought along as a food source for the spiders bite at an unexpected pace – eventually ending the window in the experimental cage in such a way that the arachnids are completely obscured after a month.

For a second time in 2011, biologist Paula Cushion of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and her colleagues instead sent two spiders of the same species – Trichonophylla clavipes, ‘golden silk orb-weaver’ to different cages.

To serve as a control for comparison, two more golden silk orb-weavers were also monitored in cages on Earth. Each cage was equipped with three cameras. Sometimes, spiders were allowed to spin their webs under lamplight, and at other times in the dark.

The team recorded a total of 14,500 images of the spiders as they cut their webs, uproot them, and rotate new ones – enabling them to study a total of 100 different web configurations.

The team found that the webs rotated in microgravity and in darkness, which were more symmetrical than those on the surface of the Earth – with the center of each closer to the actual middle.

Also, in these situations, spiders do not always position themselves with their heads on their webs – ready to fall down – just as they do on Earth.

However, while working under the lamplight, the researchers noted that the spiders’ webs returned with odd-light centers close to the light, and Arachind indicated himself to be away from the lamp.

‘We did not anticipate that light would play a role in orienting the spiders in space,’ said paper writer and biologist Samuel Zschocke of the University of Basel.

“We were very lucky to have lamps mounted on top of the chamber and not on different sides,” he said.

‘Otherwise, we would not have been able to find the effect of light on the symmetry of the webs in zero gravity.’

In its first study in 2008, NASA sent two intrepid 'Arachnotes' to the ISS - a labyrinth orbeaver ('Metepeira labyrinth'), as the main subject, and as a second species of backup orbare, in the case of Larinioides patigiatus .  Was not alive before.  Unfortunately, the test did not go according to plan.  First, one of the spiders crawled out of his cage into his mate - meaning that the two spiders made a tangled picture of the webs moving around.

In its first study in 2008, NASA sent two intrepid ‘arachnotes’ to the ISS – a labyrinth orb weaver (‘Metepeira labyrinthia’), as the main subject, and as a second species of backup orbare, the case of Larinioides patigiatus. In. Was not alive before. Unfortunately, the test did not go according to plan. First, one of the spiders crawled out of his cage into his mate – meaning that the two spiders made a tangled picture of the webs moving around.

The team found that webs in microgravity sprung up and ended up being more symmetrical (as in the picture, lights back on) than the surface of the Earth in the dark.  Also, in these situations, spiders did not always position themselves with their heads on their webs - ready to fall down - just as they do on Earth.

The team found that the webs in microgravity rotated and ended in darkness more symmetrical than the Earth’s surface (according to the picture, turned back on with light). Also, in these situations, spiders did not always position themselves with their heads on their webs – ready to fall down – just as they do on Earth.

While working under Lamplite, the researchers noted that the spiders' webs came back as odd, as depicted - with the centers of the webs close to the light, and the aranoids distancing themselves from the lamp

While working under the lamplight, the researchers noted that the spiders’ webs returned as odd, as depicted – with the centers of the webs close to the light, and the arachnids distancing themselves from the lamp

Dr. “Spiders have a back-up system for orientation, which seems amazing, because they never come into contact with the environment without gravity during their evolution,” Zschokke said.

On the other hand, he explained, as spiders are in constant motion when spinning the web, a secondary way of orienting themselves may be its benefits.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal The Science of Nature.

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