Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What kinds of webs do spiders weave in zero-gravity?

Orb-weaver spiders create asymmetrical 3D webs on Earth, but in previous experiments on the space station, their webs were much more symmetrical. As you can see in the time-lapse above, Esmeralda is following this trend with her circular web. But now Countryman is also noticing that on the ISS, the spiders aren't at the top of their web facing downwards to look out for captured prey. "They've been sitting in all different parts of their web and they're not necessarily facing down in relation to their habitat," she says.

On the ground, a spider simply has to let itself drop and gravity will help the long strands of the web fall into place. But when a spider tries this in space it goes nowhere...