CLOSE
iStock
iStock

Spiders Tune the Strings of Their Webs

iStock
iStock

Spider silk is remarkable: The material boasts some of the highest tensile strength found in nature. It’s also capable of transmitting vibrations like the strings of a guitar. According to new research, spiders have adapted to tune these strings like tiny, eight-legged musicians, Gizmodo reports.

The study, recently published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, examined the webs of the garden cross spider (Araneus diadematus) to see what makes them such great natural instruments. Certain frequencies can tell a spider a lot: They might signal prey, potential mates, or structural issues with the web.

Measurements of web vibrations taken with lasers revealed that web tension, silk stiffness, and the shape and structure of the web all impact its data transmitting capacities. The research also showed that spiders can alter each of these qualities. When a spider modifies the threads of its webs, tweaking things like tension and stiffness, it’s doing more than building a sound trap. It’s tuning the web to transmit frequencies it recognizes.

The researchers suggest that a spider’s dragline silk—the silk used to weave the spokes and outer rim of a web—may have evolved so spiders can adjust it for this reason.

“Spiders, unlike most other animals are able to shape their immediate environment through making their own materials for integration into highly adapted structures,” the study authors write. “Spider behaviour and silk properties are variable but tunable, perhaps allowing spiders to shape their extended phenotype for multifunctional outcomes.”

A spider’s ability to spin finely tuned webs makes up for an area where it's sorely lacking. Despite sporting eight eyes, spiders have awful vision. Tuning and plucking their webs allows them to detect prey they might not have been able to spot otherwise.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Courtesy of The National Aviary
arrow
Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
iStock
iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios