Skydiving spiders can steer themselves through the air – video

Tropical spiders known as ‘flatties’ have been seen flinging themselves from treetops and gliding through the air.

Unlike most spiders, which drop themselves from great heights using strings of silk, these daredevil arachnids prefer to dive headfirst and can even steer their descent by adjusting the angle of their front legs.

Their wide, flat shape helps them to glide through the rainforest canopies of Peru and Panama in an attempt to avoid predators on the forest floor below.

A 'flattie' spider belonging to the Selenops genus. A 'flattie' spider belonging to the Selenops genus. Credit: Stephen P. Yanoviak
A ‘flattie’ spider belonging to the Selenops genus. Credit: Stephen P. Yanoviak. 

A team of researchers lead by Stephen Yanoviak, a tropical arthropod ecologist at the University of Louisville, studied the spiders’ unusual behaviour in the Peruvian rainforest. They collected several spiders and dropped them from a height of 20 to 25 meters (65 to 80 feet) above the ground, then watched as they gracefully manoeuvred through the air.

Their study has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface and you can watch a video of the spiders in action below.

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