Spiders use their web as a sophisticated vibrational instrument

Spiderweb. Photo: UPI

OXFORD, England, Sept. 7 (UPI) — The spider web is like an instrument, its silk strings vibrate like guitar strings, delivering music as information — info to help the web’s eight-legged resident capture food and avoid predators.

Previously, researchers at the University of Oxford revealed how spider use web vibrations to monitor their surroundings. In a new study, scientists were able to show how spiders manipulate web tension, silk stiffness and web architecture to influence what and how information is collected and delivered.

Researchers liken the web-building skills of a spider to those of a luthier, a person who builds and tunes stringed instruments.

Lasers allowed researchers to measure the propagation of ultra-fine vibrations across the silk strands of various spider webs. Scientists used the data to build a model to simulate how different factors — tension, stiffness and design — influence the transmission of vibrations.

The findings, detailed in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, suggest spiders can manipulate various factors to amplify certain vibrations while dampening others, and to orient amplification of different vibrations in different directions.

The research mostly focused on the web-building skills of the garden cross spider,Araneus diadematus.

“Spider orb webs are multifunctional structures, where both the transmission of vibrations and the capture of prey are important,” lead study author Beth Mortimersaid in a news release.

Most web-dwelling spiders are without sufficient eyesight. Vibrations reveal their surroundings. Mastery of this domain has enabled their survival.

“It is down to the interaction of the web materials, a range of bespoke web silks, and the spider with its highly tuned behavior and armory of sensors that allows this virtually blind animal to operate in a gossamer world of its own making, without vision and only relying on feeling,” added Oxford professor Fritz Vollrath. “Perhaps the web spider can teach us something new about virtual vision.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here