NOPE From Above! - Skydiving Spiders Discovered By Scientists In The Jungles Of South America

More bad news for arachnophobes, as scientists working in Peru and Panama have discovered canopy-dwelling spiders that have evolved the ability to steer themselves while freefalling from trees, giving them the appearance of skydiving. That's right people, you've got it, 'NOPE! from above!'

It's not that they're into extreme sports, but it means if they fall by accident or jump to avoid predators while high up in the tropical rainforest canopy they can glide down and easily get back to their home trunk.

The details of these daredevil arachnids were revealed in a recently published paper, where they name Selenops banksi as one of several spiders in the genus Selenops that are capable of this temporary aerial flight.

The spiders are nocturnal, hunting at night, and measure around two inches wide. They are "wafer thin" so they float through the air, and very flexible. They steer by spreading their legs using drag and lift, and are also able to right themselves if they accidentally fall upside down.

To make matters worse Selenops banksi also camouflage themselves, often disappearing into the bark of the tree because of their patterned form.

Selenops banksi disguised on a tree trunk (WHY GOD, WHY???).

The authors of the study think this type of behaviour was a precursor to the origin of wings. They're hoping by studying the spiders they can apply their techniques to robotics to create robots that can right themselves in mid-air.

Robert Dudley, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley involved in the study, says these spiders are the latest in a long line of non-flying insects that are able to manoeuvre while freefalling, like ants, bristletails, and certain insect larvae.

"My guess is that many animals living in the trees are good at aerial gliding, from snakes and lizards to ants and now spiders,” he said. “If a predator comes along, it frees the animal to jump if it has a time-tested way of gliding to the nearest tree rather than landing in the understory or in a stream."


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