We are all familiar with spider webs, those sticky strings that brush against your face when you’re in the scary part of your basement. Spiders usually use them like nets, waiting patiently for unsuspecting insects to become trapped in the fibers, but one type of spider can do something totally unexpected and totally awesome with its web.
The triangle weaver spider can turn its web into a slingshot that when triggered will send it flying at 400 times the spider’s body length per second at its prey. That is about 26 times the maximum speed of a NASA space shuttle! The spider is able to accomplish this incredible feat by creating a triangle-shaped web with a central line that extends out and anchors it to the wall. The spider then yanks on the line, pulling the web tighter and tighter. When an insect disturbs the web, the spider releases the line and is shot forward like a crossbow bolt. Scientists even observed the spiders “reloading” multiple times to ensure their prey was properly captured. This jaw-dropping hunting strategy may be the only known example of an animal using an external object to store energy, and it really seems to work. In the lab the spiders caught their prey 70% of the time when using this slingshot method.
After this discovery, I am hoping the creators of Spider-Man will consider adding the ability to slingshot at rocket speeds to his list of super powers. I mean, because really, this is just too cool.
Want to learn more? Visit https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/animals/this-spider-accelerates-faster-than-a-rocket.aspx
May 24, 2019