What animal can take to the air using homemade balloons they've made, pluck strings on a self-made "instrument' to get information, and -- as was recently discovered-- use their bodies as sails to traverse bodies of water, with silk as an anchor?
You guessed it. The humble, magnificent spider.
In this recent research, scientists set out to discover why and how spiders could travel such far distances, so quickly colonize deserted islands (due, eg., to volcanism), and cross bodies of water in their path. They collected 325 wild spiders and dropped them in a pool of water- and all of the spiders landed on the water's surface, suspended by all eight legs. Then the arachnids stretched out their abdomens like sails-- a behaviour never seen on dry land, and certainly not during gusts of wind-- and rode the wind to shore, casting silk anchors and attaching to rafts.
The sailing behaviour was tightly linked to flying behaviour (where spiders use kites or balloons of silk to fly to new lands).
What is the basis of these astounding behaviours? Do these spiders assess the situation, make a plan, and invent novel ways of using their silk and their bodies? Or are they hard-wired to sail and fly when the need arises?
Spiders are able to travel across water like ships, using their legs as sails and silk as an anchor. The arachnids were already known to take to the air on "ballooning" flights, using their silk to catch the wind and carry them up to 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) a day, scientists have discovered. Now spiders have been shown to be sailors as well as aviators. Tests carried out on trays of water showed that many species adopted elaborate postures, such as lifting a pair of legs, to take advantage of wind currents.