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Climate Change May Mean Faster Tarantulas

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Fast-tarantulas Climate change
Speedy spiders could be in our future. Image credit: Bart van Dorp

If you need another reason to convince others to reduce their carbon emissions this study could be just the ticket.

Researchers at Harvey Mudd College in the US have discovered that higher temperatures can dramatically increase Texas brown tarantulas top running speed.

Spider biology – for those brave enough to study them – is fascinating. Instead of contracting muscles to extend limbs like we do spiders inflate their limbs with haemolymph (‘insect blood’) in order to straighten them. Basically spiders are insect robots using hydraulics to propel themselves.

And just like robots, temperature fluctuations can affect the viscosity of their hydraulic system.

Researchers put the tarantulas through their paces at four different temperatures ranging from 15°C to 40°C.

At 15°C tarantulas run on average 20cm per second. Cranking the temperature up to 40°C changes the tarantulas speed to the breakneck speed of 53cm per second.
There is a silver lining for us slow running arachnophobes however, as the temperature increased the spiders limb coordination decreased. This may be due to the haemolymph not being able to get to the joints fast enough. Whatever the reason let’s be happy for small mercies!

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