MRI images reveal live spider’s ‘double beating heart’

A new research has shown a possible ‘double beating’ occurring inside the heart of a spider, captured by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Researchers have used the MRI scanner on tarantulas for the first time, giving unprecedented videos of its heart beating.

“In the videos you can see the blood flowing through the heart and tantalisingly it looks as though there might be ‘double beating’ occurring, a distinct type of contraction which has never been considered before. This shows the extra value of using a non-invasive technique like MRI,” said PhD researcher Gavin Merrifield.

Researchers from Edinburgh University used MRI scanners at the Glasgow Experimental MRI centre as such procedure reduces the need for dissection and provides greater insight to internal workings as the animals remain alive and unharmed.

“One potential practical use of this research is to ascertain the chemical composition of spider venom,” said Merrifield.

“Venom has applications in agriculture as a potential natural pesticide. On the more academic side of things if we can link MRI brain scans with a spider’s behaviour, and combine this with similar data from vertebrates, we may clarify how intelligence evolved,” added Merrifield.

The research has been presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Glasgow.

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