Spiders can fly hundreds of miles using electrical gradients

Spider on tip toe.

Distinctive “tip toe” behavior of a spider about to launch

It’s long been known that spiders spiders can “balloon” themselves up into the air using extruded silk strands, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles. Recent work by Erica Morley and Daniel Robert at the University of Bristol demonstrates that the strands aren’t merely caught by the breeze.  The silk threads are negatively charged (like the earth), and are drawn up the positively charged electrical gradient in the atmosphere.  The result is an electrostatic elevator for the spiders.  No wind required (though a little breeze does help move the spider to a new location).

See Ed Yong’s excellent blog post at the Atlantic for more details, or check out the original paper by Morley and Robert at Current Biology.

Photo from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballooning_(spider).

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