How spiders fly using electric fields

(ORDO NEWS) — Never given wings by nature, many species of spiders have instead developed the uncanny ability to take to the skies using a few short strands of web projected from the back of their torso. How do they do it?

To fly, spiders can use electric fields. This mechanism seems fantastic, but scientists have confirmed its possibility in theory.

Exactly how this method of invertebrate flight works has never been completely clear, although historically biologists have speculated that it probably has something to do with eddies of warming air near the Earth’s surface.

However, there is an alternative explanation for this phenomenon that is gaining more attention as the evidence to support it accumulates. Instead of flying on air currents, spiders could take off into the sky on electric fields.

How spiders fly

Research conducted by scientists from the University of Bristol in 2018 showed that the electric fields generated by weather events are strong enough to tear a single electrostatically charged strand of a web and a spider hanging from the ground off the ground.

In a 2022 paper, scientists created a mathematical model that describes the electromagnetic interactions around several hanging strands of a web.

This brought new important details to the discussion. The model does not mean at all that electric charges are necessarily responsible for the phenomenon of spider flight. But the work does answer a lot of questions about how physical laws work in nature.

The fact that spiders can increase their web charge slightly to trap prey (and potentially collect pollutants) has been the focus of experimental research for some time now.

But in an experiment, it is almost impossible to measure the charge of a thread with the help of modern technologies, so in the study, scientists limited themselves to a mathematical model. It is possible that in the future they will be able to prove it in practice.


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