May 16, 2011

I visited my friend Max and his family this weekend. Max is a first grader who loves to know everything he can about arachnids…..that is the scientific word for spiders. I thought he (and probably lots of my other readers!) would like this science news story about Tarantulas and how they climb safely.

Tarantulas are quite heavy, at least for spiders. They can weigh up to 1.75 ounces (50 grams), and their bodies are very delicate. So, climbing is possibly one of the riskiest things an adult tarantula can do. "They wouldn’t survive a fall from any height," explains Claire Rind, an arachnologist from the University of Newcastle, England. Rind ran a series of experiments, putting tarantulas into an aquarium, tilting it straight up, and then using slow motion microphotography to film the spiders’ feet as they held on. She also used a microscope to look at the moulted exoskeletons from her Mexican flame knee tarantula, Fluffy (yes, she saved them all!), and discovered tiny, silk-producing openings all over the spider’s feet.

She discovered that when a tarantula slips, it saves itself by shooting silk threads out of its feet to grasp the surface it is climbing. Sound like anybody you’ve ever heard of?


Photo: International Society of Arachnology

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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