As if spiders were not scary enough, now it turns out they can fly with electricity.
Research published Thursday ended the long debate about spiders can use the silk they weave as parachute to fly through the wind or if the flight is powered by static electricity that reacts with silk.
A study by Erica Morley, the University of Bristol's sensory biophysics, confirmed what Charles Darwin particularly observed seeing hundreds of spiders flying 60 miles above sea level and landing on his ship, HMS Beagle.
Darwin believed that electrostatic force was in some way involved. Morley and researchers supported this by demonstrating for the first time in a lab how spiders use electrostatic forces for ballooning.
When spiders start from the ground and flow through the sky, sometimes for thousands of miles, it depends on a "balloon process" where spiders raise the belly to the sky, spin 7- to 13-foot silk parachutes and fly away. A previous study confirmed that spiders fly by checking the wind and throwing out their silk parachutes at the right time. However, the study could not explain why the spiders with several silk spiders use the balloon to not confuse the wind.
Morley's research explains the lack of tangles and explains why spiders can fly thousands of miles even when it's not windy. The strings do not disappear because each string rejects another in an electrostatic force. Their survey also concluded that the weather conditions are not the main driving force for when a spindle balloon, but rather if an electric field is present in the atmosphere.
"It is reasonable to convince that if e-fields are ecologically relevant, spiders should be able to detect and respond to an e-field by changing their behavior to engage in ballooning," said the study.
Scientists let Linyphiid spindle into a box that restricted air movement but reflected electrical fields naturally occurring in atmospheric conditions. When the electric field was turned on, the spiders showed a "significant increase in the balloon". The change in behavior showed that the spiders can detect when electricity is present.
When the spiders were balloons in the air, the researchers closed the electric field. As a result, the spiders would quickly fall out of the air towards the ground, indicating that the spiders need the balloon power supply if the airflow is limited.
Although the wind plays an important role in the balloon process and the subsequent milestones traveling, this study shows that balloon behavior is spread by electric fields.
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January 20, 2020
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