Many animals attack prey with rapid strikes, typically a linear motion pointing forward and powered a rapid release of energy. To have the flexibility of strike direction is extremely rare in nature.
My collaborator Dr. Crews and I found the flat spiders (Family Selenopidae) can strike toward any direction. This novel mechanism is enabled by a special leg design. When striking a posteriorly oriented prey, a spider may turn at 3000 deg/s (about ten rounds per second), which is the among fastest turning maneuver in legged animals. (Full-text: here | Background story: Inside JEB)
Ongoing investigation covers the morphological and neuromechanical basis for extreme maneuverability.
Selected media coverage: Atlas Obscura | Smithsonian Magazine | National Geographic Magazine
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