Scientists have taught a spider they call Kim to jump on demand. It might sound odd, but it was done all in the name of science! They wanted to learn how the spider leaps so far and help engineers design small robots that can imitate the movements.
This species of spiders is called Phidippus regius, also known as a regal jumping spider, which can leap up to 2 centimeters across. That means the spider jumps six times the length of their bodies. And they can do it from a standing start. Humans can only jump 1.5 their body length.
Applying Spiders’ Leaps to Other Sciences
Kim is a regal jumping spider – Phidippus regius – a species famed for its astonishing leaps.
The leader of the experiment is scientist Dr. Mostafa Nabawy, from Manchester University. He said that only studying the spider’s leap we can “understand these biomechanics [and] we can apply them to other areas of research.”
When the spider takes off, its legs gather a force equal to 5 times its body weight.
The team trained Kim to jump at different heights and distances on a platform they made inside a lab. Then, they recorded her jumps with cameras that had ultra-high-speed. The spider was also scanned inside a micro CT for the scientists to create a 3D virtual model of her.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
Hydraulics, Muscles, and Springs – All Inside a Tiny Spider
What is impressive is the fact that the spider used different techniques of jumping when she was presented other challenges.
In short distances, she took a lower and faster jump, wasting more energy but less time to fly. This would make her jump accurate when she would capture prey. In long distances on rough terrain, she used less energy and leaped slower. Inside insects’ and spiders’ bodies, there are spring-like mechanisms, muscles, and internal fluid pressure, all working together for the perfect leaps.
Dr. Bill Crowther is the co-author of the study and is also from Manchester University. He explains that
“Whilst Kim can move her legs hydraulically, she does not need the additional power from hydraulics to achieve her extraordinary jumping performance.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.