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Scientists Trained a Spider to Jump on Command!

Scientists Trained a Spider to Jump on Command!

What’s an engineer to do when they’re developing micro-robots and need some insight on mechanical movement? The first answer that comes to mind probably isn’t “Hope that some arachnid-studying scientists capture a trained jumping spider on film as it deliberately leaps from platform to platform and document the results in an exhaustive report.” But here we are.

Initially, the scientists conducting this study at the University of Manchester couldn’t find the right spider. Enter Kim, the Regal Jumping Spider who learned in a matter of weeks how to propel herself from a takeoff platform onto a landing platform. According to The Telegraph, the scientists weren’t interested in “predatory” jumps, so they didn’t use food as motivation. What they wanted, and got, were jumps prompted by the power of suggestion (in other words, moving her from ledge to ledge until she understood what she was supposed to do).

Kim has since passed away, but her contribution to science will not be forgotten.

Jumping spiders—oh, by the way, there are over 5,900 varieties of jumping spider—have the ability to leap up to six times their body length. And now, thanks to this research, we know that they’re quick learners. Sure, the movements weren’t predatory, but couldn’t those leaps turn predatory if prodigious jumpers like Kim changed their minds? I’m not saying it will happen, but for now, I leave you with these immortal words from Ian Malcolm: “Your [spider-loving] scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Anyway, sleep tight, and don’t let… well, you know where I’m going with this.

Which tricks are you planning on teaching a spider today? Let us know in the comments!

Images: University of Manchester

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