Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Smart Spiders Learn Best Way to Snag Prey

 The orb-web spider Cyclosa octotuberculata perches in the "debris decor" of its web. Debris décor is made of the husks of prey and the spider's own shed exoskeleton. 

A spider sitting in its web waiting for a fly to buzz by may seem passive, but new research reveals these arachnids can spend time in their webs strategizing about how best to detect ensnared prey.

Orb-web spiders learn to take the pulse of lines on their webs that are more likely to trap insects, the new study finds. When a bug gets snarled in a spiderweb, its struggles to free itself cause vibrations, which travel to the center of the web where the spider perches. The vibrations alert the spider to its prey.

Scientists knew that at least one type of web-weaving spider, Cyclosa octotuberculata, pulls on the radial, spokelike threads of its web as it sits and waits in order to increase the tension, all the better for vibrations to travel. What's more, the spiders apply more tension to vertical sections of the web than horizontal sections, said Kensuke Nakata, a researcher at Kyoto Women's University in Japan, who conducted the new study.

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