Spiders Use Their Webs to Help Their Hearing

A spider’s web can help it hear by feeling the vibrations transmitted by sounds through the spider web silk, according to researchers at Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science

What to know:

  • A single strand of spider silk is so thin and sensitive that it can detect the movement of vibrating air particles that make up a sound wave, which is different from how eardrums work.

  • Spiders can detect miniscule movements and vibrations through sensory organs on their tarsal claws at the tips of their legs, which they use to grasp their webs.

  • Orb-weaver spiders are known to make large webs, creating a kind of acoustic antennae with a sound-sensitive surface area that is up to 10,000 times greater than the spider itself.

  • Using small speakers placed near the web as well as on the webs, then changing sound levels as well as angles, it was found that that not only are spiders able to localize the sound source, but they can tell the sound’s incoming direction with 100% accuracy.

  • By crouching and stretching, spiders may be changing the tension of the silk strands, thereby tuning them to pick up different frequencies and customizing it to hear different sorts of sounds.

This is a summary of the article “Outsourced hearing in an orb-weaving spider that uses its web as an auditory sensor,” published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 22, 2022. The full article can be found on pnas.org .

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