Omnidirectional strikes in flat spiders

Lateral view of a flat spider
A strike attacking a prey from behind (40X slowed). One of the early films from 2008 which inspired this study.
Skeletal view of strike motion. Dots denote substrate contact.
Further simplification of strike motion with line segments representing ‘functional leg’ – a vector from spider center of mass to the distal end.

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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