The trap jaw spider is the Flash Gordon of the arachnid world. About the size of a pencil tip, these small spiders can snap its jaws with lightning speed.
Extensively studied by Hannah Wood, curator of spiders at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, mecysmaucheniidae spiders show that despite their diminutive size, they are extremely cunning and powerful. They are hard to spot in the forest yet they have the ability to catch prey like trap-jaw ants.
Wood said that the study highlighted how the scientific community still lack information about spiders. At present, experts know 25 species and are in the process of identifying 11 more.
The researcher was able to record 14 species of spiders. Using a high-speed camera, Wood documented how trap jaws attack their speed with lightning speed that required her to film using 40,000 frames per second.
After several attempts, Wood found out that the smaller the species, the faster is its jaw-snapping abilities. Of the 14 species she observed, four of them have exceeded the limitation of muscles.
Zearchaea was recorded to have a jaw-snapping action in as fast as 0.12 milliseconds. It has a 4.4 clypeus thickness ratio. Chilarchaea quellon spiders were recorded to have a jaw-snapping speed of 0.27 milliseconds and clypeus thickness ratio of 3.6. Mecysmauchenius and Semysmauchenius have speeds of 0.48 and 0.56 milliseconds, respectively.
It is still a question how these spiders are able to snap their jaws with lightning speed, but Wood and her team theorized that the power amplification of the said species of spiders can be attributed to the thickness of the clypeus, which could be storing energy needed for the exhibited ballistic actions.
Wood expressed that the jaw-snapping mechanism may be a result of repeated evolution.
"This research shows how little we know about spiders and how much there is still to discover. The high-speed predatory attacks of these spiders were previously unknown. Many of the species I have been working with are also unknown to scientific community," Wood said.