Spiders fly brilliantly using electric fields- new study

Spiders do not have the ability to fly, however, they have the ability to paraglide naturally. This phenomenon is called ballooning. A recent study conducted by a team of researchers has revealed some amazing points about this phenomenon. Researchers have claimed that ballooning does not actually require windy thermals and electric fields tend to trigger the phenomenon even if there is no wind.

Researchers Daniel Robert and Erica Morley at the University of Bristol in the UK analyzed the Atmospheric Potential Gradient (APG), which is the “electric circuit” revolving constantly around our Earth.

Scientist Richard Feynman explained, “The earth is negative, and the potential in the air is positive.” Thunderstorms taking place at a specific point of the Earth at a particular time tend to produce that tension. However, this tension varies all over the planet. The APG levels could reach hundred volts/meter on days when the sky is devoid of clouds. Nevertheless, this level could hike to ten kilovolts/meter during a thunderstorm.

Robert and Morley checked if the ability of spiders to balloon could get influenced differently by differently sized electric fields. The researchers observed the abilities of the spiders inside the laboratory by using small, carnivorous Linyphiid spiders called Erigone. They created static electric fields, taking enough care that no wind or other environmental attributes tend to influence the activity.

As soon as the researchers switched on the electric fields, the spiders started to stand up and stuck out their abdomens proudly. This practice usually is referred to as tiptoeing. The spiders pose in this manner only when they are all set to carry out ballooning. Even if there was no wind inside the laboratory, yet some of the Linyphiid spiders took up flight. Morley said, “I was delighted when I saw them responding. It’s very surprising. It needs a lot more investigation.”

However, as soon as the researchers turned down the electric fields, the spiders stopped their activities and the hairs protruding from their feet gradually died down.

Researcher Erica Morley said in a statement, “We don’t yet know whether electric fields are required to allow spider ballooning. We do, however, know that they are sufficient.”

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