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Slingshot Spiders Accelerate 100 Times Faster Than Cheetahs

In what can only be described as a web of horrors, scientists have found that “slingshot spiders” are able to shoot themselves with an acceleration of 4265 feet per second squared. I.e. these spiders are able to accelerate one hundred times faster than a cheetah can. And making that feat more impressive is the fact the spiders lock their muscles like latches to achieve their pop.

The scientists outlined their findings in a study recently published in Current Biology. The goal of the study, the scientists note, was to quantify the motion of the slingshot spiders. And it turns out that these spiders, which belong to the family, Theridiosomatidae, “generate the fastest arachnid full body motion” ever recorded.

“Unlike frogs, crickets, or grasshoppers, the slingshot spider is not relying on its muscles to jump really quickly,” Saad Bhamla said in a Futurity report on the study. Bhalma is an assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and coauthor of the study.

Scientists find that slingshot spiders can accelerate 100 times faster than a cheetah.

Lawrence E. Reeves

Instead of relying on strength, a slingshot spider achieves its celerity using a cone-shaped web with attached tension line. The spider pulls the tension line with its front legs while holding onto the web with its rear legs. This, in turn, allows the spider to hold a position that loads the web with potential energy. When the spider releases the tension line, the result is an attack on prey that happens so fast it’s hard to see it happening without slow-mo cameras.

“When it weaves a new web every night, the spider creates a complex, three-dimensional spring,” Bhalma told Futurity. He added if you compare this “silk spring” to carbon nanotubes in terms of energy density, it’s orders of magnitude more powerful. (Incidentally, slingshot spiders pull 130 Gs when they catapult themselves.)

Aside from the slingshot spiders’ incredible speed, they’re also notable for their aforementioned latching ability. It seems that while Bhalma isn’t certain slingshot spiders are able to latch their muscles, that’s most likely the case. “If the reward is a mosquito at the end of three hours [of being locked and loaded], is that worth it?” Bhalma asked Futurity rhetorically. He added that he thinks “the spider must be using some kind of trick to lock its muscles like a latch so it doesn’t need to consume energy while waiting for hours.”

What do you think about these slingshot spiders? Do you find their ingenuity intriguing, or just terrifying? Launch your thoughts into the comments, people!

Feature image: Lawrence E. Reeves