NASA researchers first sent spiders into space in the 1970s, so an arachnid-based experiment to raise scientific awareness among high school students in 2008 seemed logical. That was before one spider made its way out of its pen.
However, as is often the case, what could have been written down as a mistake became a series of experiments on spiders in space, leading to unexpected science.
Someone has to tell spiders about the scientific way…
The test seemed simple enough – a pair of spiders would be allowed to stay on board International Space Station, and researchers would look at how they adapted to life in the microgravity environment.
In a separate experiment, mice launched into the ISS entered a position in space after a few days, and soon even they invented their own game. Spiders are far different from mice, and the reaction of the arachnids was not fun.
Spiders on Earth build asymmetrical nets, with their bases closer to the top edge than the center. The octopus hunters usually live on the top half of their nets, head pointed downwards. In this way, gravity assists the spider as it runs towards its prey, trapping the net.
In space, however, there were spiders leave without gravity to guide them.
A pair of arachnauts embracing the main subject, a Metepeira labyrinthine, and backup spider, a Larinioides patagiatus, were launched to the International Space Station (ISS).
The backup spider, possibly dissatisfied with co-star status, broke out of restraint, entering the main test chamber. Astronauts could not open the room for safety reasons, they were unable to separate the pair of spiders in space. Before long, nets lifted by the spiders became hard, as the two arachnauts somehow found each other.
Fruit flies grown as food for the spiders in space also responded to their unusual situation, reproducing at an unexpected rate. Eventually, larvae overwinter, and move out of their breeding center, covering the floor of the case. Moving into the test room with the existing pair of spiders, the larvae soon covered the room window, blocking astronauts from seeing their spiders or webs.
Maybe the test just needed more spiders
The second test in 2011, created to follow the 2008 study, was designed to learn from the misfortunes of 2008.
This time, researchers used four spiders of the same species – Clavipes trichonephila, commonly known as golden silk orb weavers, or banana spiders. Two were flown to the ISS inside separate rooms, trying to avoid the previous problem of arachnids breaking down in the prison. The other pair was held as a ground control group at the BioServe Space Technologies laboratories at the University of Colorado Boulder, under conditions similar to those in space (except gravity).
Trouble began this time when two of the female spiders turned into males. These animals were chosen when they were young, at a time when sex spiders are surprisingly difficult.
There are significant differences in body size and structure between adult males and females of this species. With a lucky blow, there was one man and one woman in space and on earth.
Three cameras in each case would take pictures of the spiders every five minutes, while the animals gathered and removed figs. One hundred of these nets were examined in 14,500 images to see how those grown in a microgravity environment were compared to those built on Land.
Many of the nets built a few weeks after the arrival of the spiders on the ISS were chaotic, and irregular. And as might be expected, most nets built by spiders aboard the ISS were less irregular than those designed by their Earth relatives. In addition, photographs showed that the arachnauts did not descend as often as their earthly brethren as they lay waiting for prey.
“Because these deformities are thought to be associated with gravity, we thought that the weighted spiders would not provide a balanced net lift and would appear randomly when sitting on the gravel. mol. We found that most, but not all, nets built at zero weight were very symmetrical, ”researchers describe in a previous article published in the journal Natural Science.
However, the spiders changed their web design significantly based on lighting patterns – those built under the light of a lamp were just as irregular as those on which they were built. Land. Spiders under the lamplight usually looked down as they waited to catch flies in their nets.
“We would not have thought that light would play a role in guiding the spiders in space. We were very lucky that the lamps were attached at the top of the room and not on different sides. Without that, we would not be able to determine the effect of light on net symmetry in zero gravity, ”said Dr. Samuel Zschokke of the University of Basel explains.
This unexpected result showed spiders using light as a guide showing them how to “up” when the effect of gravity disappears.
She’s a nice spider, working as a web designer…
David Bowie’s claims to spiders from Mars to one side may seem unlikely to have developed arachnids to “design nets properly” in space. Because spiders build nets and catch prey in the dark as well as during the day, it was accepted aotrom they played little to no part in the way they build nets. While it would seem that nature did not design for spiders in space, there could be a good grounding reason for the skill.
Trichonephila on Earth direct themselves by using an organ that records the relative position of the front and back of the arachnid’s body. As he builds a net, this situation always changes over time. Therefore, spiders on Earth may use their position Grian as a secondary tool, guiding them as they move in different directions and to different positions.
“She doesn’t have to run. She sits quietly, tolerating the consummate force; she waits for her prey to come to them alone, and then she takes them in, injects them with poison, leaving them unable to escape. Spiders – as and when needed
The first spiders in space arrived in Skylab in July 1973, in an experiment originally designed by high school student Judith Miles, as part of the NASA Skylab Student Test Competition.
Gravity plays an important role in the behavior of animals on Earth. This experienced force directs the growth of plant roots, and plays an important role in the dance of honey bees. Gravity is also the cause of elephants walking around hills, rather than over them. Until funding is secured to launch an elephant into space, we will never know how pachydermnauts will cope with survival off Earth.
As people start to build the population Solar system and beyond, we are sure to take animals to space. We hope most people enjoy the trip more than the two strange spiders in space twelve years ago.
This article was originally published The Cosmic companion le James Maynard, founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a native New England wild rat in Tucson, where he lives with his beloved wife, Nicole, and Max the Cat. You can read this original piece here.
Astronomy News with the Cosmic Companion also available as a weekly podcast, carried forward by the major podcast providers. Listen to it every Tuesday for updates on the latest astronomical news, and interviews with astronomers and other researchers working to discover the nature of the Earth.
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