Spiders in space - orb-web-related behaviour in zero gravity

Zschokke, Samuel and Countryman, Stefanie and Cushing, Paula E.. (2021) Spiders in space - orb-web-related behaviour in zero gravity. Science of nature, 108 (1). p. 1.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/79561/

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Gravity is very important for many organisms, including web-building spiders. Probably the best approach to study the relevance of gravity on organisms is to bring them to the International Space Station. Here, we describe the results of such an experiment where two juvenile Trichonephila clavipes (L.) (Araneae, Nephilidae) spiders were observed over a 2-month period in zero gravity and two control spiders under otherwise identical conditions on Earth. During that time, the spiders and their webs were photographed every 5 min. Under natural conditions, Trichonephila spiders build asymmetric webs with the hub near the upper edge of the web, and they always orient themselves downwards when sitting on the hub whilst waiting for prey. As these asymmetries are considered to be linked to gravity, we expected the spiders experiencing no gravity to build symmetric webs and to show a random orientation when sitting on the hub. We found that most, but not all, webs built in zero gravity were indeed quite symmetric. Closer analysis revealed that webs built when the lights were on were more asymmetric (with the hub near the lights) than webs built when the lights were off. In addition, spiders showed a random orientation when the lights were off but faced away from the lights when they were on. We conclude that in the absence of gravity, the direction of light can serve as an orientation guide for spiders during web building and when waiting for prey on the hub.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Naturschutzbiologie (Baur)
UniBasel Contributors:Zschokke, Samuel
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Springer Verlag
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:08 Feb 2021 10:37
Deposited On:05 Feb 2021 10:08

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