Researchers turn dead spiders into actual claw machines

While we’ve seen scientists find new ways to use insects after they’re dead, it’s hard to imagine any group of researchers spearheading the Rice University team’s work on lifeless wolf spiders into “necrotic” grippers. Yes, you read that right — and no, you’re not the only one experiencing sudden fake itch.

How did we get here? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with anatomy lesson. Unlike humans, spiders do not have antagonistic muscle pairs to move their limbs. Instead, they rely on blood pressure and the flexor muscles that allow their legs to turn inward. A chamber in their heads contracts to send blood out, and this hydraulic pressure allows the spider to extend their legs. That’s why spiders curl up when they die. Their heart stops beating and they lose the ability to put pressure on their bodies.

Incidentally, the sight of a dead spider inspired a team from Rice University to begin exploring the possibility of using one as a handle, and they have been working on the project since 2019. “This area of ​​soft robotics is very interesting because the spider is in that line of investigation,” said Associate Professor of Engineering Daniel Preston. It’s something that hasn’t been used before but has a lot of potential.”

Once Professor Preston’s team understood how spiders move their legs, turning them into robots that can lift more than their body weight was simple. The procedure involved inserting a needle into the chamber of the arachnoid prosoma and attaching it to a piece of superglue. A portable syringe or lab equipment attached to the other end allowed the researchers to deliver a small amount of air into the cavity, which in turn caused the dead spider to instantly extend its legs. The resulting mechanism was suitable for approximately 1,000 opening and closing cycles.

According to Preston, potential use cases include assembling microelectronics and capturing insects. as such Take Crunch He points out that it’s hard to imagine anyone selling wolf gnaw spiders on a large scale. But if nothing else comes out of the project, at least you know how spiders move their limbs. The next time you see a dead person, you can tell a friend or family member this fun fact. I know I will.

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