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There are all kinds of ways that a spider can catch its prey, but few species are as extreme as the slingshot spider!

Hosted by: Michael Aranda

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Sources:
https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsmacrolett.8b00678
https://d4f03906-77e1-4884-a105-141f1a2ea0b9.filesusr.com/ugd/911a3a_60ad275fd61f4124be78794954d82626.pdf
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/slingshot-spider-web-acceleration
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/05/spiders-silk-faster-space-shuttle/https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/group/spiders/
https://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=301086&org=NSF&from=news
https://www.wired.com/story/spider-slingshot/
https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2014/01/18/slingshot-spider-flings-sticky-web-at-prey-spider-man-style-2/
https://sciencing.com/what-does-g-force-mean-13710432.html
https://coasterpedia.net/wiki/Highest_g-force_on_a_roller_coaster

Images:
https://www.bhamla.gatech.edu/publications
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/female-jumping-spider-crawling-on-green-macro-big-eyes-sharp-details-beautiful-big-gm1268135463-372171001
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Theridiosoma_gemmosum_f1.jpg
https://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/240416.php
https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/apple-cartoon-gm522694765-51491100
https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/vintage-rollercoaster-gm158916301-22664248
https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/lighthouse-windmill-ferris-wheel-and-roller-coaster-gm165796374-15675482
https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/f18-fighter-jet-in-the-sky-in-cartoon-style-gm1193481820-339486841
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/frightening-spider-web-for-halloween-gm180176694-26860134
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Triangle_Spider_-_Hyptiotes_cavatus,_Julie_Metz_Wetlands,_Woodbridge,_Virginia.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PSM_V33_D818_Net_of_the_triangle_spider.jpg
Thanks to Brilliant for supporting  this episode of SciShow.

Go to Brilliant.org/SciShow to check  out their Classical Mechanics course. [♩INTRO]. Worldwide, scientists have cataloged  more than 45 thousand species of spiders, and in that number, there’s  a lot of room for variation.

Like, there are all kinds of  ways a spider can catch prey. But few species are as extreme  as the slingshot spider. While others might wait for their prey to  get caught in a sticky web, the slingshot spider uses its web to fling itself forward  so fast, it puts fighter pilots to shame.

Slingshot spiders are native  to the Peruvian Amazon, and at first glance, they seem  like your everyday arachnid. In fact, at no more than a centimeter  in length, they’re easy to miss. Unless you’re an insect, and  they’re shooting straight at you.

The trick to their acrobatics comes  from how they build their webs. While other spiders form flat webs,  slingshot spiders work in three dimensions, making conical webs several  times larger than their bodies. Then, at the tip of the cone, they attach  a single thread called the tension line.

When the spider is ready to hunt, it tugs  that line with its back legs, pulling it taut. Then, when it spots a potential meal, it  releases the tension line for a split second, and the spider and web shoot towards their  target together and ensnare their prey. The whole trap only flies  forward a few centimeters, but it covers that distance with  astonishing speed: four meters per second.

That’s about the pace of a jogging human and while it doesn’t sound  too impressive at first, the spider gets to that speed by  accelerating 100 times faster than a cheetah. To give a little more of a comparison, scientists commonly measure  accelerations using G-forces. One G equals the acceleration  an object feels when falling.

The world’s most intense roller  coaster hits around six Gs, while the pilot of a fighter jet can  withstand around 13 Gs before blacking out. But when the slingshot spider releases  its trap, it experiences 130 Gs. That’s the fastest known  acceleration of any arachnid.

And while we still don’t know how the  little spider survives these G-forces, it’s possible that its hard  exoskeleton helps hold it together. The web’s construction also seems  to make all of this possible. On a normal day, spider silk is one of  the strongest materials we know about.

Even so, it’s kind of amazing that the  slingshot spider’s web manages to survive under the strain of such incredible acceleration. And that sturdiness is probably due to its shape. Researchers think that the web’s  conical shape helps the force dissipate through the web, allowing the  web to retain its structure.

Now, slingshot spiders aren’t  the only cool spiders out there, and they aren’t the only ones  to use their webs as traps. For instance, triangle spiders also  form webs attached to an anchor line. Then, when prey gets near, they release the line, launching the web towards their prey like a net.

But slingshot spiders are faster,  and they have an added advantage:. By only releasing the tension  line a little bit at a time, they can reuse the same web  instantly and repeatedly, regripping the tension line and essentially  reloading the trap if they miss. So when it comes to hunting speed and ingenuity, the slingshot spider definitely has  eight legs up on the competition.

If you want to learn more about the  physics that powers biology like this, you might want to check out the Classical  Mechanics course from Brilliant. If the phrase “classical mechanics”  is giving you the heebie jeebies, know that, like all of Brilliant’s courses,  it’s highly interactive and accessible. The course is about predicting  the motion of certain systems.

And if you want to check it out,  you can do so on Brilliant’s website or on their iOS and Android apps. If you’re interested, you can  sign up at Brilliant.org/SciShow and get 20% off the annual Premium subscription. [♩OUTRO].