It is well-known that spiders can jump, fly, and glide across water. Apparently, according to scientists at Berkley, they can skydive as well. Scientists were aware that spiders travel via air, but these parachute-launching spiders are quite different. Researchers say skydiving spiders are at the mercy of the wind, but have the ability to manipulate their flight.
The nocturnal hunting spider of the genus Selenops is a tree dweller. Occasionally, a spider is forced to abandon its home, or is blown off by a swift breeze. When this happens, the spider doesn’t simply fall top the ground like a rock. Instead, it manipulates its wafer-thin, two-inch-wide body to guide itself to safety. These spiders are also able to right themselves if they begin to fall upside down. Scientists believe that controlled descent led to the ability to glide—which preceded the evolution of flight.
“My guess is that many animals living in trees are good at aerial gliding—from snakes and lizards to ants and now spiders,” Robert Dudley, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California at Berkley, said in a press release. “If a predator comes along, it frees the animal to jump if it has a time-tested way of gliding to the next tree, rather than landing in the understory or a stream.”
Dudley and his associates in South America have documented 59 such instances of guided flight by the hunting spiders. Many times the falling spider bounced off the tree trunk but was then able to redirect its flight to another safe landing spot.