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If rather unceremoniously dumped out of a container high in the canopy of a Peruvian jungle during research, a genus of daredevil arachnids can rapidly recover, control their fall, and gracefully glide to safety or a nearby tree.

It is an excellent survival strategy for the high life, where any slip or mistake could see the spider plummeting over 30 metres from their treetop homes to the forest floor. While previous research has found some spiders “ballooning” through the skies and over long distances via clever uses of their silk, new research is the first to identify a spider (Selenops) that can glide and dive by using its body alone.

The ‘flatties’, as they are colloquially known, are incredibly wide and flat – as thin as a coin, though much wider. This body shape acts as a form of parachute in itself, but the spiders are able to enhance this and achieve the impressive glides by also manoeuvring their legs. Any fall from grace for these flatties will result in a magnificent recovery, and a spectacular glide to a safe landing.

Reference

Yanoviak, S, Munk, Y, & Dudley, R. (2015) Arachnid aloft: directed aerial descent in neotropical canopy spiders. The Royal Society InterfaceDOI: 10.1098/rsif.2015.0534