Balloon spider riding electric field for flight

Penelitian - Spiders have stunned scientists for hundreds of years including Charles Darwin who thought of how small creatures take off from ships at high speed on a windless day. Researchers have linked the flying behavior of these wingless arthropods with 'balloons' to fly thousands of miles by releasing silk traces over the wind.

"Many of the balloon spiders use some widened silk strands in a fan-like shape that indicates there must be electrostatic forces involved, but this theory fails to predict patterns in spider balloons using only wind as a rudder," said Erica Morley of the University of Bristol in the UK.

Penelitian Balloon spider riding electric field for flight

"Why big numbers air, while other days there are no spiders trying to balloon? We want to know what other external forces and aerodynamic obstacles that trigger balloons and sensor systems they might use to detect these stimuli," Morley said.

Morley and colleagues propagated atmospheric potential gradient (APG) as a solution to this mystery. APG is a global electric circuit always present in the atmosphere and the electric field (e-field) surrounds all the material can be detected by insects. Spider silk is an effective electrical insulator and detects e-field in a manner similar to bees.

"The drag force of wind or thermal is assumed to be responsible for this flight mode, but we show that the electric field found in the atmosphere triggers balloons and provides lift without air movement," Morley said.



"The next step is to find out if other animals also detect and use electric fields for balloons. We also hope to conduct further investigation into the physical properties of the ballooning silk and do balloon research in the field," Morley said.

Journal : Erica L. Morley and Daniel Robert. Electric Fields Elicit Ballooning in Spiders, Current Biology, July 05, 2018, DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.057

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