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Sailing Spiders

July 8, 2015

Researchers discover that spiders can navigate bodies of water by holding up their legs as sails.



Tetragnathid spider is using silk as anchor Alex Hyde

Tetragnathid spider is using silk as anchor. (Alex Hyde)

Sailing spiders. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Bad news for people with arachnophobia: spiders have conquered all means of transportation. Small spiders travel on gusts of wind, using their silk as parachutes that help them drift along. And recently, University of Nottingham researcher Sara Goodacre and her team discovered spiders can even make the most of water landings.

SARA GOODACRE (University of Nottingham, UK):

They are really very good sailors as well as flying aeronauts.


In work published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, the team found that the spiders scoot along the water surface using their legs as sails and their silk as anchors. This ability to cross water helps the spiders colonize new places, including farms that get plowed over and replanted each year.


They’re so good at dispersing and helpfully recolonizing a farmer’s field by eating the pests he doesn’t want. They’re incredibly good at getting everywhere.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.