Researchers from the University of Manchester have trained a spider they called "Kim" to jump on demand.
Regal Jumping Spider
Kim belongs to Phidippus regius, or "Regal jumping spider," a large species of jumping spiders that are found worldwide. These arachnids hunt actively instead of catching their prey in a web. They are characterized by four large eyes and excellent vision.
The arachnid is able to leap six times the length of her body from a standing start. In comparison, humans can only jump about 1.5 of their body length.
Why Scientists Trained A Spider To Jump On Demand?
The research, which used 3D CT scanning and high-speed and high-resolution cameras to record, track and analyze the movement and behavior of the spider, aimed to shed more light on how the anatomy and behavior of jumping spiders evolved.
Unveiling the secrets of the spider's extraordinary leaps may also help build a new class of agile micro-robots.
"The focus of the present work is on the extraordinary jumping capability of these spiders," said study researcher Mostafa Nabawy. "The force on the legs at take-off can be up to 5 times the weight of the spider - this is amazing and if we can understand these biomechanics we can apply them to other areas of research."
Different Jumping Strategies
In laboratory experiments, which were reported in the study published in the journal Scientific Reports on May 8, Nabawy and colleagues trained the spider to jump different heights and distances on a platform.
The researchers then created a 3D model of the arachnid's legs and body structure, which revealed that this particular species of spider uses different jumping strategies depending different situation.
"She will jump at the optimal angle, which means that she can understand the challenge that she is presented with," Nabawy said.
To jump shorter close-range distances, for instance, the spider was found to prefer faster and lower trajectory which involves the use of more energy but minimal flight time. This particular jump is more accurate and more effective when spiders hunt for their prey.
When jumping longer distances or to an elevated platform, however, Kim was observed jumping in a way that minimizes the amount of energy it spends.
"P. regius uses a range of different jumping strategies depending on the jumping task," the researchers wrote in their study. "This is in line with findings from other jumping studies where the choice of jumping trajectory is altered depending on both the mechanical limitations and the ecological function of the jump."