Previous studies have suggested that tarantulas – a group of hairy and often very large spiders weighing in at anything up to 50gm – may save themselves from falling by releasing silk threads from their feet.
However, another group that could find no evidence of the silk disapproved it.
Now, a scientist from the University of Newcastle, UK has confirmed that Tarantulas shoot silk from their feet when they lose their footing.
Teaming up with undergraduate Luke Birkett, Claire Rind from the University of Newcastle, UK, tested how well three ground-dwelling Chilean rose tarantulas kept their footing on a vertical surface.
Gently placing one of the animals in a very clean aquarium with microscope slides on the floor, the duo cautiously upended the aquarium to see if the tarantula could hang on.
But the spider didn”t fall, so the duo gave the aquarium a gentle shake. The tarantula slipped slightly, but soon regained its footing.
Looking at the glass by eye, Rind couldn”t see anything, but when she and Birkett looked closely under a microscope, they found minute threads of silk attached to the microscope slide where the spider had stood before slipping.
Filming the Chilean rose tarantulas as they were rotated vertically, Rind, Benjamin-James Duncan and Alexander Ranken confirmed that the feet were the source of the silk.
The findings were published in The Journal of Experimental Biology.