Space station spiders found a hack to make webs without gravity

A spider in a habitat on the ISS.

A spider in a habitat on the ISS.
The image: Bioserve Space Technologies, University of Colorado Boulder

Experimentation on the International Space Station suggests that spiders can weave normal-looking webs into space – all they need is Is a surprise Resources.

Spiders are capable of producing specific webs in microgravity, Until they reach a light source, according to the new The research Published in Nature Science. In the absence of gravity, and therefore the sense of up and down, a light source provides a frame of reference for spiders. When a light source is available, the spiders weave their normal asymmetric webs and wait near the top for prey. Without light, however, they form symmetric webs, which is not normal behavior. This is a surprising discovery, highlighting the relative importance of gravity for spiders as their webs weave.

Under normal gravity conditions, the orb web Tend to spiders Build asymmetric webs with a center, or hub Upper edge. While resting and waiting for prey, spiders sit in their hubs with their heads down., Allowing them to quickly bounce on their prey in the direction of gravity.

Because of this, scientists speculated that spiders would be thrown from kilos when exposed to microgravity. Experiments in ISS in 2008 confirmed these suspicions, revealing symmetric web construction. That said, the 2008 experiments were somewhat of a fiasco, as one spider was accidentally in possession of another spider, which caused total chaos and one Mishmash of competitive webs. What’s more, the development of fruit fly larvae (which used to feed spiders) got out of hand, making it impossible for researchers to see webs through the viewing window. The experiment was tainted, but scientists caught a glimpse of those strange symmetrical webs.

“When the opportunity arose in 2011 to conduct another experiment, we decided … based on the findings of the 2008 experiment — to use spiders that form highly asymmetric webs under normal gravity conditions .. “Webs built in zero gravity and control webs to detect differences in web size,” the authors wrote in the new study led by Paula Cushing and Samuel Zashoke of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science from the University of Basel.

The species selected for use in the 2011 spider is the Golden Silk Orb Weaver, or Trichoniphila clavipes. Cushing and Zashoke conducted an experiment in which the two spiders would build their webs in separate test rooms on the ISS, while the two spiders were placed in the same habitat on the ground to serve as a control group. They also replaced the larvae of the entire fruit fly to prevent xenogens seen in 2008.

Researchers documented the spiders’ web-making behavior over a period of two months, which uses cameras to take pictures once every five minutes. In total, “we assessed the spider’s orientation in 100 webs based on 14,528 images, of which 14,021 showed the spider in its resting position and could therefore be used for analysis,” the authors wrote.

This yourNs That out Spiders, when working in microgravity, weave webs that are more symmetrical than those built on Earth. In addition, the hubs were positioned close to the center of the webs, and spiders did not always keep their heads downward.

But this was not the case across the board. Some races demonstrated an astonishing degree of asymmetry, particularly for those “whose building began when the lights were on, suggesting that the light caused gravity as an orientation guide during web construction Changed, ”according to the paper. In addition, Prakash provided a reference for the spider to place itself above the web (at the top, researchers are referring to the top of the habitat).

Interestingly, access to the light source was also not considered a usable factor.

“We did not anticipate that light would play a role in orienting spiders in space,” said Zschok at the University of Basel Statement. “We were very lucky to have lamps attached on top of the chamber and not on different sides. Otherwise, we would not be able to find the effect of light on the symmetry of the webs in zero gravity. “

Happy accidents are great, especially when they lead to new scientific findings. But that’s why we call them “experiments”, because if we knew the results beforehand we wouldn’t do these things.


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