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August 31, 2015

Glider Spiders — "Arachnids that glide to safety may mirror the evolution of insect flight"

From The Economist: "As as biologists can tell from the fossil record, only four groups of animals have evolved sustained, powered flight. These are the insects, the pterosaurs, the birds and the bats. Many others, though, can manage powered flight's precursor, gliding. The more researchers look into the matter, the more sorts of glider they find. And the latest to be added to the list is, scarily for arachnophobes, a type of spider."

How?

"First, regardless of its orientation when shaken out of the box it was being kept in, each spider rapidly righted itself and spread its legs so that its body acted as a parachute. It then used its forelegs as rudders, to guide it through the air until it reached the tree it was aiming at."

"Why, of all the spiders Dr Yanoviak has tossed out of trees, only Selenops can do this, is mysterious. But if he is right, and gliding was the precursor to flying among insects, then arachnophobes can thank their stars other spiders have not followed suit — and then gone on to evolve wings."

August 31, 2015 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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