(arachnoid travel) Spiders recruit electric fields to control their wingless flight

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EXCERPT: . . . Scientists have attributed the flying behaviour of these wingless arthropods to ‘ballooning’, where spiders can be carried thousands of miles by releasing trails of silk that propel them up and out on the wind. [...] “Current theories fail to predict patterns in spider ballooning using wind alone as the driver. Why is it that some days there are large numbers that take to the air, while other days no spiders will attempt to balloon at all? We wanted to find out whether there were other external forces as well as aerodynamic drag that could trigger ballooning and what sensory system they might use to detect this stimulus.”

The solution to the mystery could lie in the Atmospheric Potential Gradient (APG), a global electric circuit that is always present in the atmosphere. APGs and the electric fields (e-fields) surrounding all matter can be detected by insects. For example, bumblebees can detect e-fields arising between themselves and flowers, and honeybees can use their charge to communicate with the hive. Spider silk has long been known as an effective electric insulator, but until now, it wasn’t known that spiders could detect and respond to e-fields in a similar way to bees....

MORE: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2018/july/...elds-.html

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