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“Flying” Spiders Check the Weather First


Crab spider preparing for take off, Misumenoides formosipes

Humans have known for quite a while that some spiders engage in a kind of flying called “ballooning.” To balloon, spiders release a parachute-like web into the air (with themselves attached) and allow the wind to pick them up and deposit them in greener pastures. What humans did not know until very recently, however, is that these spiders actually check the weather before taking flight.

Biologists and mathematicians with Rothamsted Research in England first calculated the ideal flying conditions for spiders, finding cloudy fall and spring days to be the best. The group then compared those conditions against the actual numbers of balloon flights by spiders and found that peaks in ballooning actually correspond with the ideal conditions. Spiders, it seems, are waiting for the right weather before lifting off.


Some spiders’ balloons are more elaborate than others…

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By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]