Spiders use their webs to extend their sense of hearing

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While the exceptional strength and elasticity of spider silk is well known, researchers have recently discovered that these creatures use their webs as real amplifiers, in order to extend their sense of hearing.

Rich learning experiences

In the context of work published in the journal PNAS, Ron Miles and his colleagues from thebinghamton university conducted experiments involving web spiders Araneidae. These aimed to better understand the acoustic properties of this unique material, in the hope of developing more sophisticated microphones that can be used in all kinds of applications (hearing aids, mobile phones, etc.).

The team used a laser vibrometer to measure the movement of their webs in response to sound at 1,000 different locations, creating a larger picture of how the web moves when subjected to tiny air particles. vibrant. They then sought to study the behavior of the spider in the web, in order to determine if, or how, it reacted to different sounds.

To do this, the researchers placed a small loudspeaker about 2 mm from the plane of the web, and 5 cm from its center, where the spider was. It turned out that the sound traveled to the creature not only through the air, where it quickly faded, but also along its web with little attenuation, reaching the spider at levels around 68 decibels.

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In some of the experiments, the spiders were also observed crouching and stretching, which the scientists believe could be a way of tuning their webs to pick up sounds at different frequencies.

A viable way to detect sound

Since spiders are already known to react when something vibrates their web, such as a fly or other potential prey, scientists believe that these new abilities could be an extension of this warning system to detect not only potential prey but also The predators.

The spider is really proof that this is a viable way to detect sound by relying on the pressure exerted by viscous forces in the air on fine fibers. If it works in nature, maybe we should take a closer look. », concludes miles.

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