Over the years there have been many theories as to why spiders don’t get caught up in their own sticky webs. But it’s only recently that researchers have finally figured out that it’s actually a terribly clever combination of anatomy and technique.
Early theories suggested spiders’ legs were covered in a non-stick coating, or that they simply tip-toed around their trap. But by videotaping how they moved with a microscope, Dr William Eberhard and Dr Daniel Briceno discovered the arachnids employed a three-pronged approach.
First, spider legs are covered with hundreds of little hairs that serve to decrease the total surface area the web can stick to. Second, spiders use a very careful walking technique with movements that let the strands of web slip off very easily. And third, it turns out those hairs are covered with a special chemical that prevents the web’s sticky coating from adhering.
Obvious human applications include developing even better non-stick coatings by further analysing the chemicals covering a spider’s leg hairs. And the study will no doubt be embraced by the insect world, as they work to develop vital life-saving web escape systems. [BBC via Neatorama]
Photo: Shutterstock/Balazs Justin